PETALING JAYA: Prominent lawyer Azhar Harun has weighed in on the issue of Muslim women not being allowed to wear the hijab when working at hotels, saying it “smacks of Islamophobia”.
Taking to Facebook, he called the policy by international hotel franchises as “discrimination based on religion and gender”.
“It does not really matter if the hotels are just following an international SOP, why can’t women wearing headscarf or tudung work as frontline staff at international hotels?” he asked of the standard operating procedures (SOP) practiced by the hotels.
Azhar, who is better known as Art, also questioned the rationale behind the policy by the hotels.
“Are they not presentable enough if they wear a headscarf? Does the headscarf affect their ability to serve the hotel’s customers?
“Do they cease to be friendly and hospitable if they wear headscarf?” he asked, adding that it would be understandable if such a ban was for any women wearing the purdah (that covers the whole face). “But why the tudung?”
The issue came to light recently in a report by the Malaysian Employers Federation (MEF).
MEF executive director Shamsuddin Bardan said he had received complaints from hotel employees regarding the banning of headscarves or hijab at the workplace.
In response, Dr Rafidah Hanim Mokhtar, who is the president of the International Women’s Alliance for Family Institution and Quality Education (Wafiq), said that it is a policy that should not be tolerated, especially in a country which holds Islam as the religion of the Federation.
“There’s no plausible explanation as to why the hijab is a hindrance to the nature of their work.
“Simply being in the private sector does not exclude hotels from respecting one’s right to practice their religious requirements,” she said, adding that the argument also applies to Malaysia Airlines, where she said there are also calls from flight attendants to be allowed to observe their religious requirement in wearing hijab.
“The fact that flight attendants with hijab had been serving the pilgrims during the Hajj season in flights to Mecca is testimony that wearing the hijab does not determine inefficiency,” Rafidah said in a statement on Nov 9.
Art called for the private sector not to discriminate when it comes to imposing such a policy even though they are not breaking the law in doing so.
“I am aware that the Federal Constitution’s prohibition against discrimination is only applicable to laws and public authorities.
“However, the worldwide trend in this millennium is that the private sector is also supposed to imbue within itself the Constitutional spirit that the private sector is so loudly demanding the state to do.”