Equal opportunities or a step beyond reason?

You may have seen it, you may have heard about it: the most recent discrimination case being fought by Muslim woman, Bushra Noah. Now the story goes a bit like this, Bushra Noah (19 year old hijabi) goes to Sarah Desrosiers (32 year old hippie) for a job as a hairdresser. Desrosiers tells her that her appearance (hijab-clad Muslimah) doesn’t quite fit with the image of the salon’s, and tells her that she will only give her the job if she removes her ‘head-gear’. Noah, distraught, after being rejected for around 25 jobs (including this one), refuses and takes her case to court instead, suing Desrosiers for the sum of £15,000 – for religious discrimination.

Now, ordinarily I’d have to say that discrimination is unacceptable under any circumstances. But this, well, I must admit, this is a little more complex. On the one hand, what Desrosiers asked Noah to do was purely a marketing strategy which unfortunately (and coincidentally) meant that Noah would have to take her scarf off – I don’t actually think it had anything to do with her religion. Desrosiers seems to have tried to implement a strategy I have often seen many retail companies and beauticians adopt. I myself admit that I would never go to a beautician whose skin was full of scabs and spots (no offence to anyone!) But the reality is that image sells; and in this case, the product, or rather service being sold involved Noah’s hair.

On the other hand, if Noah was good at her job, then who cares what she is wearing? I mean, when you go to the dentist you don’t say “open wide doc, I wanna see what your gnashers are like before I get in the seat” do you? By the same token I don’t ever recall asking any of my lecturers what qualifications they had before joining their class – I just relied on their knowledge blindly, that if they are where they are, it’s because someone, somewhere thought that they had the ability to teach me.

One blog site, Freethinkers, dubbed the story as “Boo-hoo, another Muslim’s feelings are hurt – and only cash will ease the pain”. While I admit that these were (surprisingly) my own sentiments when I first read the story yesterday evening, I do think that in this current climate it has become only too easy to point the finger at the whole Muslim community (yet again) and brand her with the rest of the Aishahs, Shabinas and Aneelas we have seen over the past three years. Instead, we must be mindful that each case must be assessed on its own merits – the specific details of this case are different. On this occasion though, I don’t think it is a religious issue – it is an issue about clothing, pure and simple. What if this had been a Sikh man or some random bald woman? Would we be making such a fuss of it then?

By making a claim on religious discrimination grounds, Noah has further fuelled discontent towards Muslims today, but by refusing to employ her because of her clothing, Desrosiers has gone against a basic right we are all entitled to in this country: freedom of expression. So let’s stop turning everything into a religious issue and put our heads back on the right way around!

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11 Comments

  1. i agree with your views- but these issues need to be considered on a case by case basis. reality is that discrimination exists, but reality is also that people are opportunists and abuse this at times…

  2. Just for arguments’ sake: what if a bald man had come in and applied for the job? What merits would he have been assessed on? A resume, I hope. Did the hippie lady ask for Noah’s resume and consider her credentials?

  3. I believe the initial contact was made via form-based application, and a telephone call thereafter, at which point Desrosiers asked Noah to come in for a one-day trial to see her work (I think most beauticians ans hairdressers do this though so it is quite common) – my point is that her credentials up to that point were perfectly suitable for the role; it is when Desrosiers saw her in the flesh that things changed. Now in her defence, I can see why it might be important for customers to see Noah’s hair in this particular industry, but again, I don’t think that Desrosiers should have turned Noah down. A compromise could have been met had Desrosiers suggested a week’s trial to see what the reaction of her customers was. I personally recall that many non-Muslims are fascinated by the hijab (in a positive way) and ask some very intruiging questions; which often lead to dispelling a few myths! So in the current climate, would Noah not have served a wider community goal – that of cohesion and active participation by all communities and genders (a goal that government is increasingly concerned about and very much involved in.)

    Just a few points to consider in the wider scheme of things…

  4. […] This originally appeared at FreeWriters. […]

  5. Yes we all have a fundamental right, that is freedom of expression, but business owners have the right to employ people they think will fit in with the ethos of the business. When I worked for Diesel I was clad head to toe in Diesel attire, I didn’t complain even though Diesel isn’t normally my style. It’s a shame wearing Lee jeans isn’t part of my religion otherwise I could have sued too. If this hairdresser wouldn’t allow people to wear hats while they worked there (note, part of the uniform, everyone gets treated the same) why should Noah be any different?

    In fashion industries image, appearance and the right attitude are essential. And it was Sarah’s right to say no to someone who didn’t fit in with her business. It had nothing to do with religion and everything to do with clothing. Yes we have to freedom to express ourselves through clothing but certain jobs require certain uniform. A business man who normally wears jeans just gets on with wearing a suit, and a dustbin man does not complain about wearing a jumpsuit because this isn’t his style.

    Choose a profession that’s right for you Noah, and don’t hit out at people who are trying to pursue a dream and take their business in the right direction.

  6. Sorry to double post but apparently according to one newspaper source, Sarah’s initial reaction was that Miss Noah lived too far away and told her this on the phone. Noah begged for an interview and Sarah agreed out of pity. This is the newest revelation to come out of the case, something that Noah admitted to whilst under cross examination.

  7. As far as I can see Noah was totally unsuited to the job. Not only did she live too far she was only given the interview once she pleaded. She was also applying for a job at a salon who’s clients are anything but modest. She would have had to style, punks, gays, bisexuals and even maybe a transsexual. Being concerned about removing her head scarf would have just been the start of her problems in that position. As an employer I find at least half of the applicants to any advertised job have not even read the job description and just applied to every single job going in a desperate attempt to get an interview. As an employer I get frustrated by this as it wastes both my time and theirs. It seems that both Noah and Desrosiers were a little naive neither should have found themselves in that position.

  8. This has nothing to do with discrimination and everything to do with judicial jihad. Bushra Noah was not hurt or maligned in any way. Her head scarf makes her look unattractive as it was designed to do. The Muslim idea of modesty involves making a woman look uninteresting to men and the way Noah Bushra wears her headscarf, pinned tightly so that only her face shows, suceeds in this.

    She reminds me of another young British Muslima who applied for a job a while back with a Church of England school in order to teach kindergartners. She did not wear a head covering of any kind when she applied for her job. Then she shows up to work in a full burqa, the all encompassing covering that only allows a person’s eyes to show, and claimed discrimination because she said she wasn’t allowed to be uncovered in the presence of men she was not related to. The only problem with that is that when she applied for her job she was interviewed sans burqa by a man and a woman. It later came out that the Imam at her local mosque had put her up to it. Now why would he do that? In the end she didn’t get her job back but got 1000 pounds for pain and suffering. Unfortunately, Muslim opportunists know that British authorities will cave if they start whining and there are no consequences for bringing a false suit against someone, especially a kufir like Sara Desrosiers.

    I think little Miss Noah should spend some time in the slammer for bringing forth such an audacious suit and for inconveniencing Ms. Desrosiers. Let’s have a little payback for Sarah’s pain and suffering, shall we?

  9. This is a ridiculous case and should be fling out of court Noah Bushra ia nothing but an ugly stupid woman

    good luck to Sarah hopes she gets compensation for this insult

  10. If I turned up to get a job as banker, lawyer, face to face customer service and I have tattoos on my face and neck, do you think I should be given the job?

  11. Although, I ain’t affected by that thing, I really hit the roof after I read.
    Those folks at the tribunal better start working for a living to see what free enterprise is all about. They just live off the taxpayer and damage free enterprise detering potential investors from investing in the UK. Very few would consider doing so with that threat hanging over their heads.
    That tribunal wants in effect to determine who is suitable to employed in the private sector. It doesn’t work like that. Those who run the businesses are the ones who should make those decisions. The ones who invested money in them and should be left alone to run them the way they please since they are the ones who will have to live with the consequences of their hiring practices.
    I mean the whole thing is totally insane and off the wall. I was tempted to contact that panel and tell them the way it is but I didn’t because I’d get in trouble.
    Those folks are deranged simple as that. It ain’t funny.


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