By: Fatima Javed
In a country as large as the United States, there are always people around of different ages, backgrounds, and religions even in the workplace. Sometimes it’s less obvious as to what a person’s religion is, but other times it’s as clear as day. The most obvious is seeing a Muslim women wearing a hijab (head-covering) or abayah (loose over-garment). A hijabi, a Muslim woman that wear the hijab, is especially obvious when she’s dressed modestly and is also surrounded by women in pencil skirts.
Hearing whispers as you walk by is often a regular occurrence for a hijab wearing girl. People often look at you different and like you don’t belong. So much research has gone into discrimination, especially that of a Muslim woman. A recent study has shown that 69% of women that wear hijab have said they face some sort of discrimination, while only 29% non-hijabis have faced discrimination. I’m not saying that 29% is a small number or insignificant, but when compared to the 69% it’s obviously a lot less. That’s over half of the hijab wearing population, which means that it is likely that about every 2 out of 3 hijabis have felt some degree of discrimination in their time of wearing the hijab. A lot of discrimination is based on the lack of education people have about Islam and what the hijab actually is. They believe terrible things they read and hear, so in the end they believe that Muslim women are the face of all of the bad things shown and said. A major place of discrimination is at the workplace. Many women face it more there because of how different they look compare to their colleagues. Being discriminated against isn’t a small thing. It can mentally break a person down from the inside, and it being in a place that one attends regularly and professionally works makes working hard.
As a woman who has worn hijab for over 7 years I can definitely say I have been on the short end of the discrimination stick. As a senior in high school I worked as an instructor at a math tutoring center in a small town in south Texas. Well, my town was filled with closeminded conservatives that didn’t take kindly to people of other religions. While I never had any problems with my colleagues, I often heard terrible remarks and received rude stares from my students’ parents. I realized there was nothing I could do to stop people from seeing me the way they did. My hijab is a part of me, so if it’s not accepted then neither am I, right? I learned to ignore negativity and focus on teaching the children the best I could. And on the other hand, my students had no problems with me or my religion. They choose to embrace our differences rather than emphasize or hate them.
Discrimination is not always rude stares or remarks; it includes actions too. While my boss was understanding and didn’t care if I wore my hijab, that is not always the case. Many hijabis are denied jobs because of their preference to don the hijab. One woman even went to court against Abercrombie & Fitch when they refused to hire her based on her hijab. Well, in the US under the freedom of religion stated in the Bill of Rights, they had no valid reason to deny her the job due to her religious preference. She, of course, went on to win her case in the Supreme Court and set precedent for future cases. During the case, Justice Scalia said, “An employer may not make an applicant’s religious practice, confirmed or otherwise, a factor in employment decisions.” While this precedent was set in US, similar things happen in other countries. For example, in the UK, studies have found that Muslim women with a college education are less likely to be chosen for a job against a non-Muslim woman with the same level of education. Additionally, Muslim women also receive less replies based on their resumes. It is important to fight for what is right. Based on name-blind recruitment, it is more likely for a person with a “white sounding name” to get a job over someone with an ethnic name. Muslim women already have a negative mark towards them just based on their names. Something as simple as a name can hold them back before an interview is even scheduled. It is great to know that the law in the US is also on our side. Every hijabi needs to know that she has rights. The laws, listed on the ACLU website, are as follows:
Some attacks go as far as physical abuse. Women are beaten up badly just because they wear a hijab. On a lesser, yet still important note, women are threated and hear verbal abuse. Some women have their hijabs ripped off of their heads just to spite them. There are news reports often showcasing the many attacks against a woman wearing a hijab. Many women endure this regularly because co-workers or bosses think less of them. Muslim women are also treated differently during job interviews. The Independent found that 1 out of every 8 Muslim women is asked illegal questions during interviews compared to 1 out of every 30 non-Muslim women. Questions about family and kids that have nothing to do with what the interview is for. They also found that 1 out of every 4 employers hesitate to hire a Muslim woman based on her religious followings. Due to the negative perception created for the hijab people try to avoid having hijabis around them.
Discrimination against hijabis is obviously not only in the United States. Basically where there are hijabis in the world there is discrimination against them. There are cases all over like in the UK, Germany and France. In some countries there are even laws forbidding the hijab or other modest coverings. According to a study on multiple European countries, it was found that Muslim women face a “triple penalty” of discrimination. They not only face what all women face against men, but also on the basis of race and religion. In 2016 in France a reporter was disrespected because she wore a hijab and reported about terrorist activity. Other news sources questioned as to why she was allowed to report because of her hijab. Cases come up all over European countries often. TRTWorld reported six cases in detail, and went on to say that the majority of cases go unreported. Many women keep their experiences to themselves so they aren’t harassed by others or are embarrassed of their encounters. In a changing world, people are more and more diverse, so some people don’t know how to react or what to make about it. Some Americans believe that people of other races and religions don’t belong among them. They dislike that Muslims are working amongst them at work, and are at the same professional level as them.
Discrimination of Muslim woman is a phenomenon that has unfortunately happened for a long time. People see us differently because we choose to wear hijab and cover modestly. The best way to handle the situation is to be the bigger person, and ignore the negativity around you. If you end up in the position where you are being discriminated against in the workplace make sure to report it and know what your rights are. People always say, “I wish I could help.” Well now you can! World Hijab Day wants to set up job training programs for Muslim women to help them conquer the professional world while wearing the hijab. We need your support to help hijabis all over the world get jobs and progress in their professional careers. The time to help is now. As a fellow hijabi, I’m personally asking for your contribution to this amazing cause.
Please donate here: http://www.launchgood.com/worldhijabday
“American Muslim Poll.” ISPU. N.p., 15 Mar. 2016. Web. 10 Feb. 2017.
Bhatti, Maqsood, and Abed Ahmed. Trtworld.com. TRTWORLD, 26 July 2016. Web. 9 Feb. 2017.
“Discrimination Against Muslim Women – Fact Sheet.” American Civil Liberties Union. N.p., n.d. Web. 09 Feb. 2017.
Easton, Mark. “Muslim Women Most Disadvantaged, Say MPs.” BBC News. BBC, 11 Aug. 2016. Web. 12 Feb. 2017.
Fenton, Siobhan. “British Muslim Women Face ‘double Bind’ of Gender and Religious Discrimination, Report Warns.” The Independent. Independent Digital News and Media, n.d. Web. 10 Feb. 2017.
Liptak, Adam. “Muslim Woman Denied Job Over Head Scarf Wins in Supreme Court.” Nytimes.com. The New York Times, 1 June 2015. Web. 9 Feb. 2017.
“Muslim Women Are the First to Pay the Price for Islamophobia in Europe.” Muslim Women Are the First to Pay the Price for Islamophobia in Europe. FEMYSO, 30 May 2016. Web. 09 Feb. 2017.