Lately, a few of my female friends have complained of a disturbing phenomenon encountered while searching for a job. At the final stage of the selection process, they were asked if they would remove their hijab (a scarf that a female wears to cover her head) at workplace. Their response was a firm no. Later, they received a letter of rejection. The very fact that such a question must be raised in an interview is an indication of bias.
I fail to understand how wearing a hijab makes a candidate unfit for a work profile. What is it that separates the choice to wear a hijab from choosing any other professional attire?
Often, a woman’s choice to don a hijab is considered as orthodox and it is assumed that she is being oppressed. Surprisingly, her intellectual capability and decision-making skills are discredited as well. Facing this kind of bigotry acts as a self-fulfilling prophecy, leaving the individual at the receiving end feeling violated and discriminated against only because of their personal choices.
Is it right to harbour prejudice against a choice of attire? Would a company suffer from diminished productivity if some of its female employees cover their heads? In professional institutions, the focus should be on a candidate’s efficiency, intelligence and suitable skill-set. Shouldn’t it be?
I do not rule out the possibility of women who wear hijab out of a socio-cultural compulsion or under immense family pressure, but why do we ignore other women whose decision rests on an informed choice? They love it, cherish it and are not at all in a desperate need of being rescued from any kind of torture. It may shock many, but a girl who wears a hijab finds it as normal as any other girl would find it to wear a kurta, a top, a short-skirt or any other dress, for that matter.
We are independent, strong women. And we are simply exercising our choice.
[Sakeena Nisar is an M.Phil student in the Department of Educational Studies, Jamia Millia Islamia]