THE International Women’s Alliance for Family Institution and Quality Education (Wafiq) regards a hijab ban, reported by an online portal, as discriminatory and unnecessary. We question the need for such restrictions in Malaysia where Muslims make up the majority of citizens.
We have recently been made aware that employees from certain hotels have been forbidden from wearing headscarves at work, based on complaints made to the Malaysian Labour Centre of the Union Network International (Uni-MLC).
There have also been reports of students being advised to remove their headscarves when applying for internships.
Wafiq also received feedback from hotel employees across Malaysia who faced similar situations.
Some were not even “front-liners” (i.e. those who interact directly with hotel guests) and were working “in the background”, but the no-headscarf policy still applied to them.
Given that Muslims comprise 60 per cent of the diverse Malaysian population, banning headscarves shows insensitivity towards the cultural and religious needs of its people.
Many Muslim women choose
to adorn the hijab as a fulfil-
ment of the Islamic faith, and can easily be spotted across the country, both in rural and urban areas.
Companies that choose to
impose such bans show poor
understanding of the above
reality. This also reflects poorly on their diversity and equality policies.
Wafiq has learned that the majority of the headscarf bans come from five-star international chain hotels, whose local owners are required to adhere to a set of rules and regulations set by the headquarters.
This includes what employees should and should not wear, which unfortunately translates into the banning of headscarves.
However, it is not impossible for hotel owners to raise this particular matter to the headquarters for some flexibility in policies that allow employees to adhere to both their religious and work requirements.
Wafiq does not see the hijab hindering any Muslim woman from giving her best at work. Wafiq urges hotel owners, and those in similar positions in other industries, to be sensitive to their employees’ need to uphold their religious beliefs, including the wearing of headscarves.
We need to understand that such a ban is a blatant form of religious discrimination and is suggestive of Islamophobia.
Both of these elements are not Malaysian, and should never be part of any company or entity that value respect and cultural and religious sensitivity in the workplace.
Dr Hazlin Chong
Secretary, International Women’s Alliance for Family Institution and Quality Education