Is this not discrimination?!

8 Mar

I read in an article that Hema, a shop in Genk, Belgium, fired one of its staff members today. The sole reason for this decision? The woman in question wears a headscarf. The management of the shop received a number of complaints from (narrow-minded) customers about her headscarf, and decided to get rid of her.

The woman is Belgian, and when she first started to work there, she didn’t wear a headscarf yet. Then she decided to wear it (i.e nobody obliged her). She did ask the management of the shop first if she would be allowed to work there with a headscarf, and they gave their permission. But apparently some narrow-minded people took offence and complained. The management changed their mind and asked her to take it off. She refused. Then they fired her.

I read the comments on the article, and they were almost all in favor of the decision that the shop made. What kind of society are we living in? Is this not paternalistic and discriminating? Is this not other people deciding what a woman can and cannot wear? And all this happened on international woman’s day! Or is this day only to promote respect for Western, non-Muslim women?

Since she’s Belgian, it’s not a case of “racism”, and no organisation is really bothered by it. But wait until a woman gets fired because she wears a mini-skirt, then the public will scream and protest that we are living in the 21st century and that a woman can now decide for herself what she wants to wear.
It’s not because you don’t understand why a woman would want to wear a headscarf, that it’s impossible that she does it out of her own free will. It seems that Belgian, or should I say Flemish society is moving away from being tolerant and open-minded, to a place where it’s perfectly acceptable to fire a person based on his/her religion. It scares me, and on the other hand, it makes me more determined than ever to wear headscarf myself and to fight for my rights as a Belgian citizen and human being!



5 Responses to “Is this not discrimination?!”

  1. Marahm March 8, 2011 at 6:01 pm #

    If the shop is within its legal rights to fire her, then how can it be criticized? Business is being lost because customers are uncomfortable with the headscarf, which is a politically charged symbol that inspires more tension and fear than respect from others— your last sentence proves that.

    Sure, the shop discriminates, but the sole purpose of a shop is to make money for its owners. Employees are there to help the owner make money, and in doing so, they get a paycheck. If they decide to present themselves in an off-putting manner which disturbs customers, who is to blame? The customers? You say yes.

    The customers have as much right to be “narrow-minded” as she has to wear her headscarf, but what’s “narrow-minded” about being uneasy with the headscarf?

    Let’s face it– the headscarf does not merely say, “Muslim” in the current social climate. We all know what else it may say. If the girl is determined to continue her efforts to educate customers, she is free to do so in another shop.

    For the record, I am a Muslim, and I, too, am on my guard with women who wear headscarves.

  2. goldenraindrop March 8, 2011 at 7:22 pm #

    I guess I’m just a bit of an idealist, in that I would like that shops would also consider morals, and not only care about making money. It’s politically charged because the West made it that way. It’s seen as the symbol of how Islam oppresses women, while in truth it just has to do with different values. I’m not denying that some Islamic extremists have used it as a symbol to keep a woman down too, but why does one have to choose between black or white?

    I know what a headscarf says these days, and I oppose it. I’m very much in favor of free will, and in favor of the right of a woman to wear what she wants. What’s narrow-minded about feeling uneasy with the headscarf is that people just want to follow their own view, not caring about the motives why Muslim women choose to wear one. No, in their eyes it’s all oppression and backwardness, and I don’t think Muslim women just have to lay down and accept that view. What does my last sentence prove except that I’m against discrimination? It’s not a crime to call for a woman’s freedom to wear headscarf if she would like to wear one, and to be accepted in society as a full human being.

  3. Marahm March 9, 2011 at 5:58 am #

    I’m in favor of free will, too, and that includes the free will of shop owners not to hire girls who wear headscarves. It seems that women do have the freedom to wear the headscarf. What you would like to see is that they wear the headscarf and not suffer discrimination in the workplace. That is indeed an idealist aim. It’s not going to happen soon.

    Maybe it will happen when the headscarf loses its politically charged image, and that is a goal that depends upon sea changes in the realm of international relations.

    Of course, every individual is responsible for his/her own sphere of influence. If you want to wear a scarf in the West, you’d better know why you are wearing it, and be prepared for negative feedback. If you still think you want to wear one, you are certainly free to do so. You are not free, however, to control the responses of other people.

    No matter how diligent women may be in presenting themselves as peaceful, responsible, covered citizens, they will continue to suffer discrimination until the larger issues are resolved on the international level.

    That’s just one small opinion, of course, not worth much, and Allah knows best…

  4. Louise Taylor March 9, 2011 at 8:10 pm #

    I am a muslima from Seattle, Washington. I agree with Mahram 1000% !!

  5. goldenraindrop March 9, 2011 at 10:58 pm #

    You might be right in describing the motives of the shop, but that doesn’t make it less discriminating.

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