The Battle For Hijab

A Sister with whom I have lived for the last six months just left a week ago. When you meet people and you liked them, it takes a bit of heartache to have to say goodbye when the time comes. But I am used to that in my life, I have met countless number of people with whom I have been friends and we have had to go our different paths when the time comes. The Sister in question is from France, countless of them from the other side of the channel I have met. With some it’s goodbye forever, while I may still be in touch with others. As it’s always in life, people come, people go, it’s just part of living.

This post is about the battle for the Hijab that the sister had to face, the battle we each have to fight to keep our Hijab on, in whatever form we choose to. When she first came from France, her concern was, would she be able to wear her Hijab at work, not being able to wear her Hijab bothers her a lot, she feels suffocated, she doesn’t feel herself without the Hijab, she would say.  I would say to her, you just take your time and see how things go. But she was determined, she wasn’t going to wait, she was just going to go in with her Hijab and deal with the consequence later.

A week or two into her position, she went in with her Hijab after informing her boss, thereby breaking the unwritten rule of the company. “Yes, this rule is unwritten but you are supposed to know that Hijab is not allowed here”, some companies and organisations have that expectation of their employees. But the Sisters went in and caused a ruckus among fellow employees, who were shocked to see her in her so glamorous Hijab entering into her work space with her head held high. All eyes on her, she has dared to go in cladded in Hijab, no one in that department has ever done that before. News travels fast, before she knows, the upstairs had been informed and she was duly summoned for questioning the following day.

The one who summoned her was the big boss, unknown to her; she just acted as her usual confident self, leading the process instead of the other way round. All other employees were gobsmacked, as the boss in question is not just an ordinary one, he is the one that can make or break your career in that place, and the bare mention of his name sends shivers down the spine of the employees. His presence commands respect and attention like in a military. On his rounds, if he turns his attention to you, you might as well kiss your job goodbye, as the only reason would be that you have done something wrong.

But this ordinary Muslim Sister who had broken the unwritten rule of the company had the guts to tell this formidable boss to hold on as she was being summoned, then she asked, “Do you want to talk to me? If so not here, let’s go somewhere quiet.” and she lead the way. Once they got to the quiet place, she once again lead the conversation, first asking for the third person to go ahead first, but the third person was too shocked to respond, and the boss responded instead, saying that the third person was with him. The third person was probably there as a witness or someone to egg on the boss on a pre-planned conclusion.

Whatever the purpose of the third person was, it was impossible to accomplish at the face of this feisty Muslim Sister, who was standing tall to win the battle for her Hijab. She then asked the boss, whose identity was still unknown to her, “what is it you want to talk to me about, is it about my Hijab? I have not broken any rule, the company dress code says to wear black and be glamorous. I have put on my Hijab in a very glamorous way, and I am beautifully dressed to the standard of the company’s dress code as you can see. What is it about my dressing that is not acceptable?” Of course none, that is the only answer that could come from the boss. He must have been too stunned to say anything else, even if he had prepared a speech to dress down this nonentity of an employee, words refused to escape his mouth. His speech was totally trapped at the face of a Muslim woman, determined to defend her choice to wear her Hijab at work.

She dismissed herself from the meeting as the boss was too speechless to do so himself. As she returned to her post, the other employees came rushing to her wanting to know what happened, they expected her to have been dressed-down, but it was not to their expectation, it could easily be said that the one dressed-down was the boss. It was only at this point that she got to know the “Who” she had spoken to. She somewhat gained a bit of esteem from the other employees, having gone through what could be regarded as an inquisition but came out with the upper hand. She got congratulated and here is the catch, the hidden Muslims came popping up at her, “well done Sister!” Where were they before that, I bet if she were to have got disciplined or dismissed for the Hijab, those so called Muslims would have burrowed deeply down into their hole not making as much as a sound.

Of course, the event has not done her any favour with the boss or her immediate manager, she definitely has got herself a space in the black book. The fact here is, she has done absolutely nothing wrong, there is no rule that says not to wear Hijab and she made that clear to them. The problem we have here is, there are some Muslims who work in certain places where they do not wear Hijab thinking they are not allowed to, even if there is no rule against doing so, this way it becomes unwritten rule. They deny themselves, their God given right because of their fear of a rule that was not even written by man. They disobeyed Allah by fearing the harm that may come from a man who has not even shown any displeasure at them pleasing Allah(swt). It’s like jumping before being pushed.

When she told me about the event, I was really proud of her and I said to her, “Ma sha Allah! You have made a big change in that place and that was a jihad for you, I am certain nothing like that has ever happened in the history of the company”, that she confirmed. She added that perhaps, she wouldn’t have been able to manage the situation as she did, had she known before hand that the person she spoke to was the big boss. This particular person is referred to by all employees with so much fear that you can not as much as raise your head in his presence due to his domineering power; he is practically treated as a deity, whose wrath you must never court. For her to have stood her grounds in the presence of such a person was nothing but with the will of Allah (swt), the only explanation as to why she didn’t know who he was and why he himself failed to introduce himself before summoning her for the inquisition. She won the battle, a victory prepared for her by Allah (swt).

And they plotted and planned, and Allah too planned, and the best of planners is Allah (Al-Imran, Q3:54).

Now, two things should happen, it’s either for the company to write it clearly in their dress code that Hijab and headgears are not allowed or to leave it as it is. Then, all the employees will know clearly that they are allowed or not allowed to wear Hijab. All those Muslim employees who took off their Hijab in order to work at the company because they think they are not allowed to, can now happily wear their Hijab and expect no challenge and if there is, they can point it out to them boldly just as the sister had. But we do not have much of a problem here in the UK regarding wearing Hijab at work or anywhere else for that matter. There is no law against it and the equality at work legislation is there to protect against discrimination at work, so everyone’s right is protected including being able to wear Hijab at work. Of course, there are some cases such as this; you only have to point it out to them, just as the sister did.

Now that she is back in France, she has to face another battle for her Hijab, the law against the Niqab in France is not just Niqab, it’s the whole Muslim identity. It’s not like you are welcome to wear Hijab in France but not Niqab.  Everything that identifies you as a Muslim is not welcome in France because of the law separating state and religion. The question is, what has the State got to do with the wardrobe of a Muslim woman? I am sure she won’t be fighting the battle alone there, there are thousands of sisters like her who are fighting for their rights to wear their Hijab or Niqab or whatever it is that keep them Muslim. May Allah (swt) give them victory.

In the past, I have had my Hijab battles and still continue to do so at every stage and turnings in my life. But I have never been exhausted nor given up, rather it is the adversaries who gave up and became exhausted.  My natural feeling about the issue of the hijab is not a matter of right. It is a necessity, a bare essential, something I cannot do without, like breathing. Does anyone have to ask for the right or permission to breathe? The Hijab is like the air I breathe, if I don’t have air, I feel suffocated, the natural result of suffocation? That is what Hijab is to me, the air I breathe, I don’t have to beg for it nor fight for it; it is freely given and should remain so. I don’t feel I need to provide any justification to anyone for wearing hijab, simply put.

Did I say the Hijab event did her no favour with the bosses, no sooner had she got out of that situation scot-free, she found herself having to face yet another battle. This time it’s not the Hijab but who would have guessed it would be about shoes! The attention fell down from the head and now fixed on the feet. She is now getting hassled for her shoes by the lower boss who couldn’t get over the Hijab defeat and now wants to nail her for her shoes. She went through up to 4 different pairs of new shoes in less than six months at the work place and none seemed to be satisfactory enough. It’s either it’s not high enough; heels not pointed enough, too much details, toes too rounded and whatever else.

The sister has unique feet that require sensible shoes; she had carefully chosen her shoes to meet the company’s dress code and the requirement of her feet. But it seems the lower boss wants to get one back on her, she just won’t accept all her explanations to include her feet issue. Eventually, she was told to get a Doctor’s letter to support her claim. Even though she had no intention of seeing a doctor for her feet as she had always dealt with the issues on her own, she had no choice but to do so. She booked a doctor’s appointment and saw a foot specialist who told her “how on earth would you wear high heeled pointed toes shoes and stand working on an 8 hour shift on feet like these?!”. The doctor promptly gave her a letter recommending she take time off work to rest her feet and schedule an immediate surgery to fix the feet.

Subhannallah! The sister did not plan nor expected this; all she wanted was a letter to say she is allowed to wear sensible shoes. One can conclude, this is yet another victory for her. She complied with the rules of the company but yet issues were made out of the fact that she chose to wear her Hijab which was in no way against the company’s dress code. When they could not bring her down on that count, they chose to take issues with her shoes. On this second count she floored them yet again and got a bonus point too, she got her feet fixed, when she never thought she would!

This scenario is typical of any situation a Muslim person, male or female can come across at work. In the UK, it’s against the law to be discriminated against at work on the account of your religion but that does not mean people cannot nail you on a different count to serve as a ruse against you being a Muslim person wearing Hijab or whatever.

May Allah help us.