The hijab debate

Stuff reports:

Two New Zealand Muslim women say they fear they will not get jobs because of their appearance.

Their comments come in the wake of two incidents in Auckland in which bus drivers took exception to Saudi Arabian women wearing veils that covered their faces.

I think we need to be careful not to confuse two forms of here. There is the which leaves the face viewable and the which does not.

I would hope few people would discriminate against someone because they wear a head scarf.

But it is quite a different issue with someone who insisted on wearing a hijab that covered the face. Yes you would have great difficulty gaining employment and fitting into a workplace, if you cover your face up.

The student, who did not want to be named because she did not want to harm her job prospects, said she could not imagine how she would be accepted into a corporate environment in her hijab.

“I know I’m going to have a hard time just being in my veil and applying to a corporate role … I can’t wait to work but sometimes I’m worried how I’m going to fit into a corporate environment where I’m not wearing a miniskirt.”

The mini-skirt rich corporate environment is more myth than substance in my experience (except PR firms). I think most workplaces are tolerant of cultural and religious diversity – within reason.

Mrs Adam, who is half Fijian-Indian and wears a hijab which exposes her face, said in 30 years she had only had two negative experiences in Wellington that she could remember.

Good. That is two too many, but once every 15 years is not too bad.

Other friends who wore the niqab, which covered the face aside from the eyes, reported they had been told to “go home” and sworn at.

This was uncommon, she said. “Wellingtonians are extremely friendly and tolerant.

“Wearing the niqab is a little more disconcerting for people and I do recognise that, you see someone’s face, that’s reassuring.”

It is up to each person what they wear in public. If they wish to wear a face covering niqab then that is up to them. But don’t expect to get a job easily if you won’t show your face for a job interview. Most people place considerable reliance on being able to see who we talk to and work with.

She rejected claims made online at yesterday that Muslims who came to New Zealand should abide by the culture.

The situation was not the same as Westerners dressing modestly when they visited Muslim countries, as “to be uncovered is not a religious tenet for the person, therefore it’s easier to not do it”.

She misses the point. Certain countries impose their religious viewpoints on people through the law. NZ generally does not. If you stand up for your right to dress according to your religious values in NZ, you should stand up for the rights for non Muslims in other countries to not comply with Islamic dress codes.

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