KUALA LUMPUR: A Muslim group which recently sparked a storm following its revelation that some hotels have banned their Muslim frontline staff from wearing the hijab, today said the practice was far from over.
The International Women’s Alliance for Family Institution and Quality Education (Wafiq) said it has learnt that a 5-star hotel in Kuala Lumpur not only bans the Muslim headcover for its frontline staff, but also to all workers whose job includes face-to-face interaction with customers.
Wafiq president Dr Rafidah Hanim Mokhtar said the ban is also extended to cashiers, event managers, banquet staff, room cleaners and even those working in the kitchen.
“The hotel staff have had their request to wear hijab turned down many times by the hotel management. Among the reasons given by the management is that they are awaiting further instructions from MAH,” said Rafidah, referring to the Malaysian Association of Hotels (MAH) which had come under fire over its defence of the ban.
Rafidah said her group had interviewed three employees of the hotel, which she did not name to protect them from disciplinary action.
They include a cashier, a spa masseur and a banquet manager who have been with the hotel for between 10 and 27 years, she added.
“One would have thought that their vast experiences, skill and loyalty would be a valuable asset to the company. Alas, that’s not to be and it’s a shame that in this day and age, these chains of hotels under MAH choose to stick to the ridiculous concept of one without the headscarves as an important element to attract customers.
“In doing so, they are also denying the opportunity for thousands of young Muslim women from pursuing hospitality careers,” she said.
Authorities in November said several international hotels were being investigated following allegations that they barred female Muslim staff from wearing the hijab.
Operations began with checks at seven hotels in Putrajaya and that hotels in Kedah, Penang, Kuala Lumpur and Selangor will be called on soon.
MAH chairman Samuel Cheah Swee Hee had reportedly defended the ban, saying it was an international practice and not meant to be discriminatory.
The statement drew condemnation from politicians from both sides, including civil society activists and groups.
Rafidah urged the tourism ministry to act against MAH for failing to address religious discrimination.
“We also hope the Ministry of Women, Family and Community Development monitor these complaints closely by establishing an effective mechanism to ensure that they are responded to,” she said.