Re-look airlines’ business concept, not just headscarf policy


PETALING JAYA: The National Union of Flight Attendants Malaysia (Nufam) has praised a minister’s suggestion that Muslim flight attendants be allowed to wear headscarves, but says the entire policy of airlines should be re-looked as well.

Adding that it would be hypocritical to look only at amending headscarf policies at airlines, Nufam president Ismail Nasaruddin said the entire business concept should be reviewed if systemic changes were to be made.

“Two things have to be looked into: dress code and whether alcohol is served.

“For certain airlines that serve alcohol, would they want to change uniforms as these have to be standardised? That would take a lot of changes.

“If the airlines serve alcohol, how would the crew with headscarves do it?”

Speaking to FMT, Ismail said airlines would become a laughing stock if the uniform did not fit the concept of headscarves.

If the issue was to be taken seriously, he said, alcohol should not be served.

Ismail was referring to Tourism and Culture Minister Nazri Abdul Aziz, who said in the Dewan Rakyat that Muslim flight attendants from Malaysia Airlines should be allowed to wear headscarves.

Nazri was responding to PAS lawmaker Ahmad Marzuk Shaary, who said the Malaysia Airlines flight attendants had asked to be allowed to wear headscarves at work.

The issue of Muslim women not being allowed to wear headscarves, or hijabs, came to light after 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 at the workplace.

Malaysian Association of Hotels chairman Samuel Cheah Swee Hee said it was the standard operating procedure of international hotel chains to prohibit staff manning frontline desks from wearing the hijab.

The urban wellbeing, housing and local government ministry subsequently issued a directive for local authorities to withdraw the licences of hotels which prohibit Muslims from wearing the hijab at work.

Its minister, Noh Omar, said the policy was contrary to the Federal Constitution and human rights.

Speaking to FMT, Ismail said the question of flight attendants wearing the hijab was not an issue with airlines that do not serve alcohol.

For airlines that did serve alcohol, he asked if they could operate without doing so if they allowed flight attendants to wear headscarves.

“We need to balance these few things, then only can we have a discussion on the headscarf issue,” he said, adding that those who wished to wear the hijab should be allowed to do so.