Protesters warn ECJ ruling to further alienate Muslim women

Women say hijab part of identity and hiring for jobs should be based on skills, not garb

The Muslim Sisters of Eire group have protested outside the EU Parliment Information Office in Dublin because of the European Court of Justice’s (ECJ) decision to allow employers to ban the headscarf in the workplace. Video: Barry Cronin

 

The European Court of Justice’s (ECJ) ruling which allows companies to ban staff from wearing Islamic headscarves is at risk of further alienating Muslim women from European society, a group representing Irish Muslim women has warned.

Nearly 100 Muslim women gathered outside the Dublin office of the European Commission on Tuesday to protest the ruling by the EU’s highest court which means employees could be banned from wearing religious symbols.

Cries of “look at my CV, not at me” and “my hijab, my choice” could be heard along Mount street as women of all ages marched up and down the pavement outside Europe House carrying an array of colourful placards and banners.

Fatima Chaudhry, a member of the Muslim Sisters of Eire group which organised the protest, warned that Muslim women already feel “marginalised and picked on by society”.

“The hijab for us is part of our identity, it’s very dear to us. You should hire someone based on their skills, their ability, their qualifications, not based on what they’re wearing.

“The hijab is just a simple piece of cloth, it doesn’t interfere with how we work. It’s time to end this debate about what women should and should not wear. Women should be free to wear whatever we want.”

A statement from the Muslim Sisters of Eire said the ruling had “been designed to drive Muslim women out of the workplace” and was “a direct attack on people of all faiths”.

‘My choice’

Fardus Sultan said people still misunderstand the culture around the Islamic headscarf and the belief that men impose the hijab on women.

“I’m not saying that in certain parts of the world things are not abused, they are, we accept that. But you can’t stereotype, you can’t assume. This is my choice, this is how I express myself. I want to be valued for who I am.”

UCD student Amina Khalid said she has never experienced racism in Ireland and that her friends at college are very interested in her headscarves. Ms Khalid, who carried a sign that said, “Hijab covers my hair, not my brain”, agreed that women should have the right to wear whatever they want.

“I’ve studied my religion a lot and the deeper you look into it, the more you realise this is part of my identity.”

Estelle Menton and Hilary Abrahamson, members of the Dublin Jewish community and the capital’s interfaith forum, said they joined the protest to “give support and a morale booster to our friends”.

“We’ve become a multidiverse nation of late and we have to get along with each other,” said Ms Menton. “We’re all human beings, we’re all God’s people. Treat others as you’d like to be treated.”