The long awaited Supreme Court decision on ‘Hijab’ in the workplace came on Monday, June 1, 2015. In 2008 at the age of 17, Samantha Elauf applied for a job at Abercrombie and Fitch but was denied employment due to the fact that she wore a hijab. She filed a suit against this discrimination. The United States Supreme court voted 8-1 in favor of the plaintiff, Samantha Elauf. “An employer may not make an applicant’s religious practice, confirmed or otherwise, a factor in employment decisions,” said the court’s majority opinion, authored by Justice Antonin Scalia.”
It took seven years but Monday, June 1, 2015 was a historic day not just for Samantha and Muslim women but for all minorities including Jews, Sikhs and others. America is a melting pot made of various nationalities and religions. This case highlighted the discrimination minorities still face in this country. There is a lot of emphasis on ‘looks’ in America and it makes it difficult for a minority to sometimes find suitable employment especially if they wear a head covering like a Muslim women, Sikh Turban or a Jewish cap. America prides itself on equal rights but it is disheartening to see that women still face discrimination at work.
Islamic Hijab or purdah (head covering and a coat) is not a restriction on women but is a symbol of modesty. Islam awarded Muslim women the right to seek an education and a job while wearing the hijab more than 1,400 years ago. There are Muslim women who are lawyers, doctors, nurses, teachers, and even heads of states and they do this while wearing a hijab!
The Messiah and Imam of today, Mirza Ghulam Ahmad in his book,“The Philosophy of the Teachings of Islam” writes, “The Book of God does not aim at keeping women in seclusion like prisoners. This is the concept of those who are not acquainted with the correct pattern of Islamic ways. The purpose of these regulations is to restrain men and women from letting their eyes to rove freely and from displaying their good looks and beauties, for therein lies the good both of men and of women.”
The spiritual leader of the worldwide Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, Khalifa of Islam, His Holiness Hadhrat Mirza Masroor Ahmad said in his Friday sermon on April 23, 2010, “We should let the World know that Purdah is for the honor of a lady although some have distorted its form. Purdah is to uphold a lady’s honor. It is in the nature of women to wish for respect and Islam champions the dignity of women. Purdah is not coercion; it marks the individuality of Muslim women and upholds their honor.”
Ever since I started observing purdah, I have felt stronger and more confident. As a Muslim woman, I am telling men, that I shouldn’t be judged by my appearance but by my intellect. I hope employers like Abercrombie & Fitch and others will stop judging women and minorities by their looks and hire them according to their qualifications.
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