HIJAB IN THE WORKPLACE
Q. What are the requirements for Muslim women's dress?
regarding Muslim women's (and men's) attire are derived from
Islam's revealed text, and the traditions (hadith) of the
Muhammad (peace be upon him). In the Quran, God states: "Say to
believing men that they should lower their gaze and guard their
modesty...And say to the believing women that they should lower their
guard their modesty; that they should not display their beauty
adornments except what (must ordinarily) appear thereof; that they
their veils over their bosoms and not display their beauty
their husbands, their fathers...(a list of exceptions)"
24, verses 30-31] Also, "O Prophet! Tell thy wives and
and the believing women, that they should cast their outer
over their persons...that they should be known and not
molested." [Chapter 33, verse 59]
tradition, the Prophet Muhammad is quoted as saying: "...If the
reaches the age of puberty, no part of her body should be seen but
and he pointed to his face and hands."
these and other references, the vast majority of Muslim scholars
jurists, past and present, have determined the minimum requirements
women's dress: 1) Clothing must cover the entire body, with
exception of the face and the hands. 2) The attire should not be
fitting, sheer or so eye-catching as to attract undue attention or
shape of the body.
are similar, yet less obvious requirements for a Muslim male's
A Muslim man must always be covered from the navel to the
knees. 2) A
Muslim man should similarly not wear tight, sheer,
or eye-catching clothing. In addition, a Muslim man is
from wearing silk clothing (except for medical reasons) or
jewelry. A Muslim woman may wear silk or gold.
(References: "The Muslim Woman's Dress," Dr. Jamal Badawi, Ta-Ha
"Hijab in Islam," Maulana Wahiduddin Khan, Al-Risala Books;
Islamic Ruling Regarding Women's Dress," Abu Bilal Mustafa
Abul-Qasim Publishing; "Islamic Dress," Muslim Women of
"Your Hijab and U.S. Law," North American Council for Muslim
Q. Is Islamic dress appropriate for
Islamic dress is modern and practical. Muslim women wearing Islamic
and study without any problems or constraints.
Q. Does Islamic dress imply that women
are submissive or inferior to men?
Islamic dress is one of many rights granted to Islamic women. Modest
worn in obedience to God and has nothing to do with
submissiveness to men. Muslim men and women have similar rights and
and both submit to God.
Q. But aren't there Muslim women who
do not wear Islamic Dress, or hijab?
Muslim women choose not to wear hijab. Some may want to wear it
they cannot get a job wearing a head scarf. Others may not
be aware of
the requirement or are under the mistaken impression that
hijab is an indication of inferior status.
Q. Why is Islamic dress becoming an
issue for personnel managers and
Muslim community in American is growing rapidly. Growth factors
conversions to Islam, immigration from Muslim countries and high
for Muslim families. As the community grows, more Muslim
enter the work force. In many cases, these women wish both to
work and to
maintain their religious convictions. It should be possible
Q. What issues do Muslim women face in
Muslim women report that the issue of attire comes up most often in
interview for a job. Some interviewers will ask if the
employee plans to wear the scarf to work. Others may
inappropriately inquire about religious practices or beliefs. Sometimes
prospective employee, feeling pressure to earn a living, will take
scarf for the interview and then put it on when hired for the
dress should not be equated with incompetence.
issues include unwanted touching or pulling on scarves by other
verbal harassment or subtle ostracism and denial of
Many Muslims also object to being pressured to attend
celebrations of other religious traditions or to attend
employer-sponsored celebrations at which alcohol is served.
Q. What can an employer reasonably
require of a woman wearing hijab?
employer can ask that an employee's attire not pose a danger to
employee or to others. For example, a Muslim woman who wears her
so that loose ends are exposed should not be operating a
or similar machinery. That employee could be asked to
hijab so that the loose ends are tucked in. An employer can
the hijab be neat and clean and in a color that does not clash
Q. What are the legal precedents on
cases have demonstrated an employee's legal right to reasonable
accommodation in matters of faith. Examples: 1) The failure of other
employees to wear headscarves is legally irrelevant. The employee
show sincerely-held religious beliefs. (E.E.O.C. v. Reads,
2) There are no health or safety concerns at issue. (Cf.
Dec. No. 82-1, 1982, also E.E.O.C. Dec. No. 81-20, 1981) 3)
cannot give effect to private biases. In other words, just
employer believes customers will be prejudiced against a
woman in a
scarf, that does not mean the employee can be fired. (Palmer
1984, also Cf. Sprogis v. United Air Lines, Inc., 1971) 4) An
must demonstrate "undue hardship" caused by the wearing of
attire. (TWA v. Hardison, 1977) Hardships recognized by the
include cost to the employer or effect on co-workers. 5) Dress
have disproportionate impact on certain faiths. (E.E.O.C. Dec.
71-2620, 1971, also E.E.O.C. Dec. No. 71-779, 1970)
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