Thursday, July 12, 2007

Religious Freedom?

A Muslim woman has filed a discrimination suit against a national chain of jewelry stores, alleging that she was "enthusiastically" recruited to return to work at a Fairfield shop in 2006 but then turned away after managers saw she had begun to wear a head scarf. --The Bee

While I don't argue with the right of this woman to wear her scarf, I think it's within the employer's right to set a dress code. Whether it's right or wrong, there *is* a perception that a head scarf on a woman, whether it is a Muslim or a Pentecostal, signifies a fanatic. No one wants to do business with a fanatic, and rightfully so.

Fanatics bomb clinics, shoot doctors, blow up schools, take out innocent people in the name of whatever religion or creed they are infected with.

I might think twice about buying jewelry (which I rarely do anyway) from a woman in a head scarf, from a man with a huge crucifix hanging around his neck, from a person with a red tilaka on the forehead, and from a person wearing anything that might make me pause. I suppose that includes the fashions of today.

When a person is going in to buy jewelry, it usually involves a lot of money. Standard business attire (which traditionally doesn't include a burqa--at least not in the US) would be preferable when large sums of money cross hands.

You're asking for a buyer's trust when you work in sales. Unfortunately, cultural stereotypes are often automatic. The sale might be lost on a momentary lapse of trust.

I DO think the young woman has the right to wear her head scarf anywhere. But I also honor the right of the employer to think of his or her business needs. Jobs are not guaranteed. You're not entitled to a job just because you used to work there, etcetera. I think this young woman decided to make a point and become a mascot of sorts for ending the blatant stereotyping and discrimination that American Muslims have been subjected to historically.

Does it mean it's right? I think the court will have to sort this one out. Meanwhile, I, as a pretty open-minded person, am offended on some level that this has become such an issue. I must be getting more conservative and less idealistic.

Find a job where the public contact is not affected by traditional cultural or religious dress. Telemarketing, or somewhere else...? Certainly analytical jobs don't require specific appearance protocol. Just show up and use your head.

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