Supreme Court Rules in Favor of Woman Denied Job at Abercrombie & Fitch Because She Wears a Headscarf

Dr. Rouzana Hares, President, Muslim Unity Center

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As a working Muslim Women who experienced the world, with and without a hijab I was eager to learn what would be the final verdict as it answers to a struggle every working Muslim women faces (regardless if she observe the headscarf or not). For many years I had to struggle with the idea that wearing a hijab to school or work might jeopardize my success and achievement, or at least subject me to a discriminatory act that I didn’t want to deal with nor had the strength to face, so I didn’t wear it.  Part of it too, is I always felt that even though the laws and the constitutions are there to protect me against discrimination, I wouldn’t be able to defend those rights against corporate America lawyers nor I would be able to prove my case.

This case proved me wrong, and the ruling kind surprised me and had me think about few incidents I had before I decided to establish my own practice, and be my own boss.  I recall one time, when I started my first job a co-owner of the group practice I worked for found out that I am a Muslim and without him asking me about my position on the hijab and why I am not wearing it  he commented  “It is better if you stay like this” without hijab!!. Few months later Ramadan comes in I ask to change my lunch hour to match the time to break the fast and I get denied stating that changing lunch time to a later time in the day will affect the scheduling for patients and staff, and management didn’t want to explain why they needed to change the schedule to patients. From that point on I stopped asking for accommodations because I knew it will not happen and that corporate laws are stronger than me and I would lose those battles, or lose my Job.  I prayed in my car, and swallowed my cold food in a hurry after a long day of fasting between patients, skipped holiday celebrations with the family and so on; till the time I came to terms with myself and decided that for the sake of myself and my family I can’t put it up with it any more. Now I wish I took actions right away and stood up for my rights; just like that young girl did. Regardless if her decision to work at that retailer store was the right one or not, she did the right thing by defending her choices.

Stereotyping is not something new and limited to Muslims, and we like it or not it is very common. Our Society view Muslim women especially Hijab ones as oppressed and weak, and it to fail to recognize that Muslims are ordinary females with abilities, dreams and aspiration to succeed and serve.  That misconception trapes Muslim females into “Muslim Friendly” jobs and “Muslim Friendly” demographic areas, regardless of how smart they are or what kind of talent they have.  Muslim, especially females, will face to choose career Vs. Identity (hijab) especially if their choice is outside the safe zone.  As I mentioned, I had the choice to live the American dream on both sides, as expected, too many things changed in my life after I decided to wear the hijab. Instantly I learned that hijab affect every aspect of my daily life (driving, shopping, and interacting with patients, employees, fellow practitioners, school teachers, waitresses ….etc.). I recall a comment I got from an older sales man when he saw me first  time with hijab “Is this a new OSHA requirement?” as he was walking into my clinic!!   However, this young girl didn’t want to trap herself into those “Muslim Friendly” Jobs, some might argue well that was her choice, she shouldn’t have chosen a work place with a controversial dress code to start with. I have to admit, because of the retail store ideology I only went there once and never did again. However, I can’t challenge her decision to work there, under our constitution it is her right, and if the only reason she was denied the opportunity was discriminatory in nature, then the retailer did violate the law.  She is a very brave young lady to file a complaint against the retailer and prove that our “Constitutions” and “Bill Of Rights” are more powerful than corporate laws. I can’t imagine the agony she must have gone thru, till this case got into the Supreme Court and the day of the final ruling, the battle must been tough one but it is well worth it. It is not about Muslim women right to wear the hijab or not, it is about our rights as a nation not to be discriminated against at a work place and our right to choose and to live the American dream.

Amina Iqbal, Director of Operations, Michigan Muslim Community Council

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As Americans we put faith in our justice system to uphold the rule of law and as the highest court in the judicial system, the Supreme court rulings are the ultimate source of a legal rule. With regards to the case in question, the Court ruling is an evidence that freedom to practice ones religion should not and cannot be used to discriminate against anyone. It is important to note that, the ruling, although specifically dealt with a hijab wearing woman, has implications for other minorities too, be it a Sikh person with a turban or a Jewish man wearing a yamaka.

Had my family and I been living in certain European countries, there would be serious concerns about our ability to practice our religion. Personally, the verdict fills my heart with a sense of gratitude and hope. Gratitude, because I live in a great country where one person’s voice can make an impact and hope because despite current islamophobia, the rule of law has prevailed.