Headscarf politics

Hafidz Baharom

THERE have been some rumblings over hotels disallowing their female concierge staff from wearing the headscarf. This has led to one MP saying it is grounds to revoke hotel licenses, a local prominent personality accusing the hotels of Islamophobia, and even local NGOs to call for a boycott of the hotels. 

So first off, no, it isn’t Islamophobia. Sorry, but if Islam is dictated by a headscarf, then you’re nuts. There are plenty of Muslim women in hospitality that adhere to the dress code, who are still well-rounded Muslims. To say that the headscarf makes a Muslim, well, I’ve got news for you. 

A headscarf-wearing single mother of two young underaged children pimped them out for money, but I’m guessing this is viewed as “Islamic” to said individual since, you know, headscarf. 

What you wear in no ways reflects your piety or beliefs, let us all remember that. In fact, you know what is the number one reason for the headscarf? Peer pressure. 

Now, let us move on. 

The hospitality sector, ranging from the hotel staff all up to the air stewards and stewardesses, has always been rife with physical discrimination and even a certain way of dress. It has been this way for ages. 

It’s like the fashion and modelling sector. 

There will always be people discriminated for their skin tone, their height, their weight, their age, and even, believe it or not, the way they choose to dress. I repeat, it has been this way for ages. 

Yes, change does happen with the introduction of new beliefs and fringe ideas such as plus size modelling and even androgyny. But it is still a fringe ideology. 

Since we are talking about hospitality, it’s the same belief for MAS and AirAsia with their uniforms. For years, people have been asking why these staff members don’t don the headscarf. They are part of the hospitality sector as well, and the only flights that do allow it are those from the Middle East. 

Now, let’s talk about this issue from a higher standpoint – should all companies and organisations be able to exercise hiring policies and dress codes as they wish to? This is the main question we should be asking ourselves. 

We need to understand a moderate, non-aligned stance here which is that the company or organisation decides its own code of conduct. 

To understand this, test the two extremes. A Facebook friend gave an example by asking a question if he needs to adhere to the pro-headscarf policy if he opened a Hooters restaurant in Kuala Lumpur. You would think it ridiculous, right?

Test the other extreme. Say we have a blanket policy of no headscarves where even Jakim and all state religious authorities will have to adhere. 

Again, it sounds preposterous. 

The hijab has been gaining traction worldwide where it is both acceptable and unacceptable, such as how Scotland now allows it as part of their police uniforms, and yet mayors in France vehemently ban the burkini. 

Even sportswear have started allowing women to wear the hijab, even if some stores in Malaysia refuse to hire salespersons donning one. This happened last year and was highlighted by Ismaweb, and nobody called it Islamophobia or even threatened to shut down the store. 

What has changed since then? Well, a general election is near. 

Yes, it is a soft job market where fresh graduates are finding it hard to find work, and I understand that some who studied hospitality and have a passion for it will have issues with the hotel policy. However, if it means not being at the concierge desk out of your adherence to your principles, then that is the price you have to pay. 

Just as I will support MAS and AirAsia air stewardesses not donning their headscarves as part of their uniform and serving alcohol on airplanes, so too will I support the hotel industry’s right to not allow headscarves at the concierge. 

Mostly because I haven’t been blind enough to consider this a new issue and I don’t have to grovel for votes like populist politicians trying to win conservative votes. 

All industries have some form of discrimination; even schools have such policies that discriminate – try asking them about dreadlocks and braids, and see where you end up. Or what about pinafores for Malay girls, if it were suddenly to re-emerge as a trend again. 

So, if you want to suddenly promote headscarves being allowed wholesale everywhere, do it without the hypocritical double standards. Allow people to wear it to the extreme, including the face veil which is banned at the High Court for security protocols. 

Otherwise, just shut it and let’s move on, because this is an issue with no proper solution which is being milked for nothing more than political brownie points. – November 18, 2017.

* Hafidz loves to ruffle feathers and believes in the EA Games tag line of challenging everything. Most times, he represents the Devil’s Advocate on multiple issues.

* This is the opinion of the writer or publication and does not necessarily represent the views of The Malaysian Insight. Article may be edited for brevity and clarity.

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  • Our educators stress too much on forms rather than on the real substance of the teachings. This is a very sad for the people of Malaysia.

    Posted 6 years ago by Tanahair Ku · Reply