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9505Hijab and Muslim dress news: A non-Muslim, I ’m wearing a hijab to make a statement

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  • Zafar Khan
    Dec 7, 2013
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      A non-Muslim, I’m wearing a hijab to make a statement


      On the day after the Parti Québécois tabled Bill 60 on Nov. 7, I started wearing a hijab at work, to publicly register my opposition to the proposed values charter. I am not a Muslim. But I am a public-sector worker — an associate professor of history at Concordia University — and as such, a category of worker that would be affected by the charter in my working life.

      I already had been considering wearing a hijab for some time, not just to register my opposition to the principle of a values charter but also as a gesture of support for the people that Bill 60 proposes to target. Wearing a hijab — or any other visible religious symbol — also seemed to me to be a potentially effective strategy for defying the charter’s effective implementation, if Bill 60 is ever passed.

      I approached this gradually. Before the charter was even tabled, I had bought a scarf that could be draped in a style evoking a hijab. I wore it to and from work, shopping, picking my kids up from school. I felt the effects immediately. Other women who were veiled were more likely to catch my eye in public; almost everyone else, more often than not, looked away. I sensed their discomfort. Or maybe I only imagined this and it was only me who felt uncomfortable.

      “I’m not really Muslim,” I felt inclined to tell people. “I’m only doing this to oppose the charter.”

      But that felt like cheating. On the day the charter was tabled, I decided it was time to make a stronger commitment — wearing a hijab more consistently, and wearing a proper hijab.

      My youngest son, age 5, thought the hijab was fine. “Everyone can wear what they want to,” he said. But my 8-year-old son was clearly uncomfortable when he saw me striding through the classroom toward him.

      “Kids are going to make fun of me,” he said. He was right. “My daughter is isolated at this school,” a veiled mom told me when we were standing around in the playground watching the kindergartners line up to go into class. “She has one friend, whose mother is Tunisian. When she’s away from school, my daughter spends the day alone.”

      On the first day I wore my hijab to work, people had mixed reactions. Those who didn’t know me didn’t say anything, or really react at all. In fact, it felt kind of normal wearing the hijab at Concordia. The university felt like a less tense place to be wearing a hijab than did the métro or the streets near my home. People who knew me, by contrast, avoided saying anything about it unless I said something about it first. One colleague said: “I thought you were maybe trying to keep your ears warm in the cooler weather.”

      I decided that the thing to do was just state what I was doing, every time I saw someone I knew, so they would understand what I was up to, and why.

      Every colleague I spoke to was supportive. And since that first day wearing the hijab, I have been wearing it at Concordia, in my workplace, every working day since. Some students seem surprised. I’m not sure if they think this is what a professor should be doing, or if they believe that it is an inappropriate action for a non-Muslim. I suspect they are, understandably, more wary than my colleagues of entering into a political discussion with me about a matter that is not strictly academic.

      I told Ada, one of the veiled kindergarten moms, that I was wearing a hijab to work and she said: “I am worried this will be hard for you. Is it dangerous?”

      I tell her it really isn’t hard for me (although it can be momentarily awkward, and I find it hard to hear sometimes, especially on the telephone). I have supportive peers. I have the protection of a formidable union. I have cultural capital.

      Right now, it seems much harder to be a person who has none of these privileges to be wearing a hijab. It seems much braver for a woman to wear a hijab every day, like Ada, as she says goodbye to her children when they enter a schoolyard where other children are learning to search for and seize upon difference. It seems much more problematic when a hijab might offer a reason for one’s children’s exclusion or isolation.

      All of us would do almost anything to make our kids’ lives happier, and easier, and to bring them more success. To not unveil, when one might feel that such things are at stake, is truly brave.

      Nora Jaffary is an associate professor of history at Concordia University.

      © Copyright (c) The Montreal Gazette

      Singapore: Campaigners bid to overturn hijab ban
      13 November 2013


      An online campaign has been launched to overturn a ban on the wearing of the hijab in Singapore, it's been reported.

      Several online forums and a Facebook page have been set up to gather support against the ban, Today newspaper reports. The Singapore government's policy says women who work in public sector offices which require a uniform cannot wear the hijab, a Muslim headscarf.

      An online petition on non-governmental organization Avaaz website seeking to overturn the ban gathered more than 12,000 signatures in September, but was subsequently closed down by its creator.

      However, a new page was soon set up on the website, which says people have "a right to wear their personal dressing that is non-discriminatory against any particular group" in Singapore.

      One of the most prominent Facebook groups on the issue was the Singapore Hijab Movement, which received over 25,000 "likes" and featured the slogan "Love my country, love my hijab", but has also reportedly become inaccessible. It could not be established what led to the closure of the first online petition, or what happened to the Singapore Hijab Movement's Facebook page.

      Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean said that while the government understands the community's views, it also has the responsibility to maintain social harmony. "Every community when it presses for its own concerns must bear in mind how that affects other communities and how others might see it," The Straits Times quotes the official as saying.

      According to the 2010 census, 15% of Singapore's 5.4 million-strong population say they are Muslim, making Islam the city-state's third most popular religion behind Buddhism and Christianity.

      Singapore ‘Hijab Movement’ Facebook page mysteriously disappears
      November 14, 2013at 12:31 pm


      The Singapore Hijab Movement Facebook page, which garnered over 26,000 likes in the span of a few weeks, has been removed from Facebook for unknown reasons yesterday.

      The Facebook group has called on the Singapore government to loosen its ban on the wearing of the hijab, a Muslim headscarf, for women who work in public sector organizations that require a uniform.

      There was every indication that the movement was gathering even more steam prior to the page’s removal. A Google cache of the page showed that the administrator has been sharing quotes pertaining to women’s rights and the hijab issue this week, and these postings have gone viral with hundreds of shares on Facebook.

      Engagement appeared to be high too, with the number of people “talking about this” outstripping the number of likes, indicating that the page’s participants are still actively advocating against the hijab ban.

      So far, the government has not shifted its stance on the issue. Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean said that the government has to maintain social harmony even though it understands the community’s views. He told The Straits Times:

      Every community when it presses for its own concerns must bear in mind how that affects other communities and how others might see it.
      Problematic to allow the hijab?
      The debate has been raging for weeks. In September, a participant at a forum asked why nurses in Singapore were not allowed to wear the hijab. The ban applies to Muslim women in the police force and Armed Forces, even though Sikh men in public service are allowed to wear their turbans on the job.

      Yaacob Ibrahim, the minister for communication and information, said that allowing the headscarf would be “very problematic” for some professions, and asked the Malay-Muslim community, which represents 15 percent of Singaporeans, to remain patient.

      The Fellowship of Muslim Students Association has also spoken out on the matter, arguing that allowing the hijab would not affect religious harmony. A representative told Today:

      There is much evidence in other advanced societies to show that allowing Muslim girls to wear the tudung [editor: the tudung and hijab are synonymous] does not affect integration and social cohesiveness. And, in the case of nurses, who don the hijab in Western countries [...] they are able to perform their duties professionally.
      Tech in Asia is attempting to contact the administrators of the Facebook page.

      Women in hijab set to fight it out in Dubai
      Asian Karate Championship to be held from November 28 to December 7; About 800 champions from 45 countries participating
      By VM Sathish
      Published Friday, November 22, 2013


      The UAE will host the Asian Karate Championship, which will see many Arab women fighting with their hijab.

      This is the first major international karate event after the World Karate Federation approved the use of hijab for women participants in January this year.

      The UAE Taekwondo and Karate Federation, the UAE Youth and Sports Authority and Dubai Sports Council together will host the 12th Asian Karate Championship in Dubai from November 28 to December 7.

      This is the first time the event is hosted by an Arab nation, said Major-General Nasser Abdulrazaq Alrazooqi, President, UAE Tekwondo and Karate Federation and member of EC OFWKF.

      About 800 karate champions from 45 countries, including about 100 female martial art experts, will participate in the tournament at the Hamdan Bin Mohammed Sports Complex in Dubai.

      The UAE National Ladies karate team comprising 12 Emirati women will participate, said Abdulmajeed Ali Alzaourouni, Board Member and Assistant Secretary General of UAE Taekwondo and Karate Federation.

      “Karate is popular in the UAE, especially among expatriates, and we are trying to make it more popular among the Emiratis. There are good number of Emaratis and Arabs interested in the game and the decision to allow use of hijab in such competitions will attract more Arab women to take up karate,” said Naser Abdul Razak.

      Competitions will be held for juniors and seniors. A 12-member UAE female karate team will take part in the competitions.

      The event will also include special seminars for referees and coaches. The closing ceremony will be held on December 6, with the winners receiving awards.

      Cash price is not included as it is not allowed as per the World Karate Federation rules.

      “This is the first time an Arab Gulf country is hosting the event, and we expect more women participation. While normally there are more than 1000 participants in such competitions, 40 per cent are female. The number of female participants in the Asian Karate championship will be finalized within three days,” said Abdulmajeed.

      Last year FIFA approved a ruling allowing Muslim women footballers to wear the hijab. The start of the judo competition at London 2012 saw a debate whether Wodjan Ali Seraj Abdulrahim Shahrkhani from Saudi Arabia would be allowed to wear a hijab.

      Turkish hijab activist calls on state to keep out of private life
      When four women lawmakers wearing the headscarf set a new milestone in Turkey on Oct. 31 by attending parliament’s general assembly, I was in Dallas, in the United States. It turned out that serendipity played a role in my journey to Texas. Not only did I get a chance to meet Merve Kavakci-Islam — perhaps the most central figure in the entire saga of the headscarf ban in Turkey — but also she graciously agreed to answer my questions, which I now share exclusively with Al-Monitor. In 1999, Kavakci-Islam was elected to the Turkish parliament as a deputy, but was never allowed to take office because of her headscarf. Moreover, she lost the right to be a deputy and left the country. She is now a professorial lecturer at George Washington University’s Elliott School of International Affairs.

      Read more: http://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/originals/2013/11/merve-kavakci-turkey-secular.html#

      Two Muslim girls leave nursing school over hijab ban in Prague
      ČTK | 11 NOVEMBER 2013


      Prague, Nov 8 (CTK) - Two Muslim girls left a nursing secondary school in Prague as they were not permitted to wear their hijabs, being the first to have ended their studies for this reason in the Czech Republic, Czech Television (CT) said Friday.

      CT said the case would probably end up with the ombudsman's office and lawyers were considering filing an anti-discrimination lawsuit.

      The principal of the Prague school Ivanka Kohoutova said the school had made no mistake.

      She said since the law did not define the wearing of hijab, schools could create their own rules.

      However, human rights organisations are of the view that this is discrimination and intervention in personality rights, CT said.

      When entering the school, the two Muslim girls, one Somali woman, aged 23, and an Afghan woman, 25, found out that teaching in hijab was impossible, it added.

      "The principal summoned me and told me: 'If you want to be in the school, you must not wear the scarf.' I said this was against my religion as I am a Muslim," Nasra, one of the women, told CT.

      She offered to wear the hijab in a way that would only cover her hair.

      The principal did not like this either. Nasra left the school on the same day.

      The second Muslim woman, named Zelmina, said she would try it, CT said.

      After two months, she is leaving, too.

      "I was in the classroom and I could not concentrate myself. I could not do anything as I constantly had to think of my missing something. Why am I without the scarf here? I have my rights and religion," Zelmina told CT.

      The school is of the view that wearing headgear is banned by the school rules, the principal said.

      She said the school was attended by a large number of foreign students from four continents, but a similar problem had never occurred.

      She said the students primarily disagreed with the compulsory physical education and the conditions of compulsory practice.

      The Muslim girls have dismissed the allegation.

      Czech law does not regulate the wearing of headgear, CT said.

      Canada: Edmonton police working on hijab option for uniform


      A new uniform piece could ‘open doors’ for women of other cultures looking to begin a career with the Edmonton Police Service.

      At an Edmonton Police Commission meeting Thursday it was revealed that EPS is working on introducing a hijab option to the uniform.

      Natasha Goudar with the Equity, Diversity and Human Rights Unit said the conversation started when a recruiter was asked if EPS would “ever even consider allowing someone to wear a hijab.”

      Goudar says officers have been working closely with various Muslim communities, talking to Imams about cultural implications and requirements.

      “One of the big concerns for them was an educational element to the introduction of the hijab. They didn’t want to just bring it in and have it sit on a shelf,” she told the commission.

      Goudar added that so far news of the new uniform piece is having a positive impact on young women in Muslim communities.

      Those wearing a hijab, who thought a career in policing was out of reach because of their cultural practices are not seeing it as a tangible goal, she said.

      “One young lady told me that she couldn’t wait to pass this along to her sister, who didn’t think it was possible because she wore a hijab. Now it’s an option,” she said.

      “We started that conversation, and we’re hopeful we’re going to have a recruit wearing one soon.”

      The head scarf would be black in colour, and sit underneath the standard issued Edmonton police hat.

      It’s projected that the hijab could be ready to go in spring or summer 2014, Goudar said.

      Newly appointed city councillor Scott McKeen was also sworn in as a member of the Edmonton Police Commission Thursday, and said he was impressed and proud of the work Goudar and her team have done.

      He added that given the lengths that Quebec has gone to ban the cultural headpieces, the progress seen Thursday was even more impressive.

      “This is coming at a time when another province is going in another direction,” he told the commission.

      “For that reason, I’m most certainly impressed.”

      The proposed Quebec Charter of Values threatens to forbid Quebec’s public employees from wearing visible religious symbols — including hijabs, turbans, yarmulkes and larger-than-average crucifixes.

      It wasn’t that long ago that RCMP officers were prohibited from wearing turbans, a ban was lifted by the Canadian government in 1990 allowing members to don the cultural headpieces.


      The Hijab -- The Meaning of a Scarf
      Posted: 11/20/2013 6:39 pm


      To show modern Palestine both in its people and its institutions, we popped into Birzeit University. Its campus, at the edge of Ramallah, has an enrollment of about 10,000. With beautiful landscaping connecting modern buildings and a student body that seemed like the future leaders of this young country, the campus was a huge contrast with the intense and chaotic cities.

      Strolling through the campus, I sensed a younger generation working hard for a stable and prosperous future. My agenda was to connect with young women and learn a bit about the status of women in Palestine. Along with many other things, I'm curious about the beautiful hijab, or head covering. I've noticed that some women throughout the country wear it, while others don't.

      We've filmed a series of interviews with people from many walks of life in Israel and Palestine to be used as DVD extras for our Holy Land special (and, I hope, for radio interviews). Our guide set us up with these three women. They were majoring in architecture and civil engineering and spoke English well. We had a delightful conversation about the role of women in a Muslim-dominated society. They all agreed that there were more women than men here in higher education, and that they can do anything if they work hard. Still, the consensus was that a woman's role is generally to raise children and run the family, while the man's role is to be out making the money.

      The women I talked with agreed that women are free to be individuals in Palestine, and that choosing to wear the hijab was entirely up to them. The woman who covers up is just as socially active and in on all of the jokes and fun. But when she walks in public, she feels she gets more respect.

      While a woman on the street wearing a scarf is treated differently, that doesn't mean she isn't fashion-conscious. One woman I met told me that she has over a hundred scarves, and each morning, she enjoys choosing one that fits her mood. It's an ensemble. You never wear pattern-on-pattern or solid-on-solid. If the dress is solid, the hijab will be patterned. And color coordination is important, too. Many women are sure to have toenail polish, handbag, lipstick, and scarf all in sync.

      [Note: the original article contains excellent pictures]

      Turkey lifts decades-old ban on headscarves
      Measure allowing women to sport the Islamic head scarf in state institutions is part of broader package of reforms.
      Last Modified: 08 Oct 2013 14:40


      Turkey has lifted a decades-old ban on headscarves in the civil service as part of a package of reforms by the government meant to improve democracy.

      Tuesday's measure was hailed by Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, whose wife wears a headscarf, as a "step toward normalisation" and came into effect after it was published in the official gazette.

      "We have now abolished an archaic provision which was against the spirit of the republic. It's a step toward normalisation," Erdogan said in a parliamentary speech to his ruling party lawmakers.

      "A dark time eventually comes to an end," he said. "Headscarf-wearing women are full members of the republic, as well as those who do not wear it."

      The ban, whose roots date back almost 90 years to the early days of the Turkish Republic, has kept many women from joining the public work force.

      Critics accuse Erdogan of lifting the ban to force his Islamic values on the majority Muslim but staunchly secular nation.

      When plans to remove the ban were first announced last week, the main opposition party labelled it "a serious blow to the secular republic" created by modern Turkey's founding father Mustafa Kemal Ataturk in 1923.

      Limited ban remains

      Erdogan last week unveiled a package of democratic reforms mostly aimed at improving rights for minority Kurds, but he also used the opportunity to take on the highly controversial headscarf ban.

      Female civil servants are now allowed to wear headscarves, while their male counterparts can sport beards. However, the ban remains in place for judges, prosecutors, police and military personnel.

      Erdogan's ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) pledged to remove the ban on the wearing of headscarves in all domains when it came to power in 2002. It has already relaxed the ban at universities.

      The highly charged debate lies at the heart of Turkey's divisions between religious conservatives, who form the bulk of Erdogan's AKP supporters, and more secular members of society.

      In 1999, Turkish-American lawmaker Merve Kavakci arrived in parliament wearing a headscarf for her swearing-in ceremony. She was booed out of the house and had her Turkish citizenship revoked.

      In stark contrast, a day after Erdogan's announcement of reforms, President Abdullah Gul's wife wore her headscarf to parliament.

      How many women wear the niqab in the UK?
      The face veil has yet again cropped up in a heated debate - this time amid concerns about teachers and doctors having covered faces. But do the numbers warrant the worry?


      If you watched last night's BBC Question Time, you may have been struck by a 20-minute debate on whether or not niqab should be worn by teachers and doctors. Given that the debate wasn't prompted by any sort of incident concerning a woman in niqab at work, Reality Check started to wonder just how many women the panelists were talking about.

      The short answer is, we don't know. We contacted the Muslim Council of Britain who told us they don't know. We contacted Muslim Women's Network UK who told us they don't know.

      We contacted the General Medical Council and then the Royal College of Nursing and then the National Union of Teachers. Each media team told us the same: that they didn't collect numbers on niqab wearing professionals and that to the best of their knowledge there had never been a case where niqab was mentioned as an issue.

      Can we, at the very least, say if the number of British Muslims wearing niqab is in the hundreds, thousands or tens of thousands? Well, maybe. But only by making dangerous connections between the little data we do have, in order to try to make data we don't have.

      Here is the data we do have:

      1. There are 2,706,066 Muslims in England and Wales (2011 census)
      2. Of whom 1,704,103 are working age (aged 16-64)
      3. Of whom about 817,970 are women (given that 48% of all Muslims in the UK are women)

      We also know that there are 3,029,000 people working in either state education or the National Health Service (Labour Market Statistics, September 2013). That's 7.3% of the UK population that is of working age (2011 census again).

      Here is the data we don't have:

      So how can we get from there, to niqab-wearing nurses – not to mention doctors and teachers? We could look at the number of British Muslim women born in countries where the niqab is worn – there are roughly 7,336 of those women now living in the UK – and then look at the chances that they'll be one of those professions. But, given that British-born Muslim women might choose to wear niqab and many foreign-born Muslim women might choose not to, that doesn't seem like a very sensible calculation.

      It seems likely that all we can say is that the number of real individuals that were the subject of last night's hypothesising is likely to be low - very low. But does that matter? Maybe the debate is more about political philosophy than a practical problem. Maybe you have better numbers on niqab in the UK. Share your views in the comments below..

      Muslim clerk wins hijab fight against Abercrombie and Fitch
      Omar Sacirbey | Sep 9, 2013


      A federal judge ruled Monday (Sept. 9) that the Abercrombie and Fitch clothing chain violated federal anti-discrimination employment guidelines when it fired a Muslim employee in 2010 for not removing her religious headscarf, or hijab, for work.

      Abercrombie asserted that as part of its business plan, it not only employed sales-floor personnel, but “models,” had a “look policy” that gave employees certain grooming and appearance guidelines, and sought to give customers an “in-store experience.”

      Umme-Hani Khan wore her headscarf when she interviewed at Abercrombie’s store in San Mateo, Calif. Khan said she accepted the “look policy,” which included a no headgear provision, and in October 2009 started her new job, which was mainly in the stockroom, but required her one to four times per shift to restock clothes on the sales floor.

      Local supervisors permitted Khan to wear headscarves, as long as they matched company colors, and never complained about Khan’s performance. But about four months into Khan’s employment, the store was visited by a district manager who noticed Khan’s headscarf. A human resources manager told Khan she could keep working at the story only if she stopped wearing her headscarf at work.

      Khan was fired on Feb. 22, 2010 and filed her lawsuit with the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission on March 1.

      “All Americans have a right to reasonable religious accommodation in the workplace, and for Muslim women this includes the right to wear a hijab to work,” said Zahra Billoo, executive director of the San Francisco Bay Area chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, which filed the lawsuit.

      In its defense, Abercrombie argued that it was exercising its right to commercial free speech, and that an employee who wore a headscarf could hurt the store’s business, even though the company could not produce any evidence of economic harm.

      U.S. District Court Judge Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers wrote that while Abercrombie requires employees to “represent the brand,” it cannot demand they be a “living advertisement,” and as part of her judgment ordered the retailer to revise its policies to prevent discrimination.

      Policewomen begin wearing ‘hijab’
      Yuliasri Perdani, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta | National | Sat, November 23 2013, 11:00 AM


      Several policewomen in Sidoarjo and Surabaya, East Java, donned the Islamic head scarf or hijab on Friday following the National Police’s decision to lift a ban on wearing the attire.

      “This is the National Police chief’s decision. Policewomen are now allowed to wear head scarves,” Surabaya Police chief Sr. Comr. Setija Junianta said as quoted by tribunnews.com. He said that of 146 policewomen stationed in Surabaya, 40 of them had officially requested to be allowed to wear the hijab.

      National Police chief Gen. Sutarman gave his approval on Wednesday, allowing policewomen to wear the Islamic head covering to work.

      “Wearing a hijab is part of religious freedom. Policewomen who want to cover their heads can do so, just like the policewomen in Aceh. They must, of course, buy their own hijab as we don’t have the budget to supply them,” he said at National Police headquarters in South Jakarta recently.

      The ban on policewomen wearing hijab was introduced in 2005, when then-National Police chief Gen. Sutanto issued a decree ordering all police officers to wear only official police force attire.

      The decree stipulated that if the instruction was violated, it could result in dismissal.

      Female police officers in Aceh were excluded from the regulation, given the province’s 2001 sharia bylaws, which oblige all women to cover their hair.

      In June this year, Muslim groups, politicians and rights campaigners called on former National Police chief Gen. Timur Pradopo to lift the decree, arguing that it infringed on the basic rights and freedom of Muslim women on the force.

      Bowing to public pressure, Timur set up a team to discuss the revocation of the decree. The instruction was not annulled, however, until Timur was succeeded by Sutarman in October.

      Pressure also came from within Polwan Indonesia, a Facebook group with over 800 members, which became a site where policewomen could share information and amass support for the revocation of the hijab ban.

      Police chiefs in Malang, Blitar and Jombang in East Java recognized the death of the decree by allowing their female colleagues to wear hijab on Fridays.

      Sutarman said he had thus far only verbally lifted the ban and had no plan to legalize the new rule in a decree. “Issuing a decree means that the force would have to provide the garments. We cannot afford that,” he said. While allowing the wearing of the hijab, Sutarman reminded policewomen to be professional in their choice of accoutrement.

      “The hijab’s color must matched that of your uniforms. Don’t choose hijab that clash,” he said.

      In consideration of the Islamic obligation that Muslim women should cover their bodies from head to toe, Sutarman also said policewomen were free to choose to wear long pants rather than their knee-length skirts, if they preferred.

      Soon after the announcement, Polwan Indonesia’s Facebook page was inundated with positive comments and thanks by a number of policewomen. “Congratulations to Bapak National Police chief. I pray that he will always be under Allah’s protection during his time in office,” one Medan police officer, Menie Lubis, wrote.

      Tati Suharyo, a senior officer with the Jakarta Police, even contacted a national Muslim clothing store to have special hijab made to match their brown uniforms.

      “Good evening all, [I] have ordered hijab from Rabbani. When the store is ready, we can all start ordering and purchasing [our hijab] at Rabbani stores across the country,” Tati wrote.

      The National Police currently have 20,000 policewomen, representing only 5 percent of the force’s 400,000 personnel.

      The hijab-wearing rapper: Egyptian teenager stands up for victims of sexual harassment after starring on Arabs Got Talent
      Mayam Mahmoud tackling expectations about how women should behave
      Economics student calls on victims of sex abuse to shout at their attackers
      Egyptian shot to fame after her appearance on Arabs Got Talent in October
      Gets 50 supportive messages a day on Facebook, but some claim she is creating a 'bad name for Islam'
      99.3% of Egyptian women have reported being victim of sexual harassment
      PUBLISHED: 11:59, 2 December 2013


      A hijab-wearing rapper who starred on the Arabic version of Britain's Got Talent has told how she is using her music to stand up for women's rights in the Middle East.
      Mayam Mahmoud, an economics undergraduate from Egypt, wants to tackle the taboo of sexual harassment in her country where more than 99 per cent of women have reported being a victim.
      The 18-year-old, who carries a sharp nail for protection, makes clear in one of her raps that 'I won't be the shamed one' and calls on women to shout at harassers the street in the hope others with follow.
      'It's happening to everyone,' she says. 'But everyone is scared to talk about it.'

      Her views shot to prominence in October when she first appeared in front of an audience of millions on Arabs Got Talent, where she eventually made it to the semi-finals.
      Interest in her music quickly grew and new fans have been posting up to 50 supportive messages on Facebook every day.

      UK: Birmingham college forced into U-turn over Muslim veil ban following outcry
      JONATHAN BROWN Author Biography Friday 13 September 2013


      Shortly before lunchtime two figures, swathed from head to toe in black, emerged through the doors of Birmingham’s Metropolitan College flanked by a security guard. “The ban has been lifted - I have got what I wanted,” said one of the girls before disappearing into a nearby Subway sandwich shop.

      The teenager, an A-level student who does wish to be named, sparked a national debate this week when she tried to enrol for an A-level course at the Matthew Boulton campus of the city college – home to 35,000 students the majority of them Asian.

      She was told that it was the college’s policy not to allow the niqab she was wearing because of fears over campus security. On Thursday night – in the face of a huge social media campaign organised by students, a 9,000 name petition and the threat of a lunchtime demonstration, the college said it had decided to modify its stance. The niqab is now unbanned.

      Depending on which side of the argument they were on, the decision to reverse the policy was described yesterday as either a victory for common sense or a humiliating capitulation for the British way of life.

      Tory MP for Kettering Philip Hollobone, who has tabled a private members bill that would make it an offence to wear clothing obscuring the face in public, said the change of heart was a matter of “shame” and made the argument for legislation banning the niqab in public more urgent.

      The college’s reversal mirrored the decision of Judge Peter Murphy at Blackfriars Crown Court in London on the same day. He had climbed down after initially refusing to allow a woman accused of intimidating a witness to give evidence in a trial unless she uncovered her face.

      “People are frightened of standing up and speaking out in this discussion because of political correctness and the intolerant reaction from Muslim groups who jump up and down with fury whenever anyone says that it makes sense for people to go around with their faces perfectly visible to everyone else which is the way human beings were created in the first place,” said Mr Hollobone.

      Protest organiser Sabiha Mahmood, 27, a former student at the college and now a photojournalist, said it was important to keep the issue in the spotlight. She said the social network sites around the campaign had been bombarded with racist and Islamophobic comments during the campaign.

      “This is a victory for now but we have to make sure it does not happen again in Birmingham or in any other college in the UK. Our primary concern is that this student is part of British society and in this country we allow women to express themselves how they want to. This is a pragmatic and sensible solution,” she added.

      The issue opened up a divide in the Coalition government. Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg had expressed his “unease” at the decision to implement a ban. A spokesman for David Cameron meanwhile said it was up to individual schools and colleges to set their own dress code.

      Current Department for Education guidance is that education establishments should act reasonably in accommodating religious requirements whilst safeguarding safety, security and effective teaching under the terms of the Human Rights Act.

      It is a fine balancing act. When Islamic dress codes have been tested in the courts, senior judges have ruled against them. In 2007 a 12-year-old girl from Buckinghamshire lost her bid to wear a full-face veil. It followed a similar ruling in the case of a 15-year-old Muslim who had claimed the right to wear a jilbab whilst an employment tribunal also found against a teaching assistant who was told by her school she could not wear a niqab.

      Responses in Britain have differed dramatically from France where veils were banned from being worn in state schools in 2004 and outlawed from public places in 2011. This summer there was an outburst of rioting in a Paris suburb when a woman was ordered to lift her veil by police.

      Birmingham Metropolitan College’s principal and chief executive Dame Christine Braddock originally justified the stance by outlawing the veil alongside hoodies, hats and caps. She said all should be removed on the premises to allow ease of identification by the security guards who patrol the premises and entrances.

      But in its statement announcing a change of mind it said it had been forced to act because of fears that media attention was affecting teaching and learning. “As a consequence, we will modify our policies to allow individuals to wear specific items of personal clothing to reflect their cultural values,” it said.

      Students will still need to show their faces to confirm their identity on entering the premises.

      There had been growing pressure in Birmingham this week to persuade the college to stand down. Councillor Waseem Zaffer, chairman of the city council’s social cohesion boar, wrote an open letter to Dame Braddock pouring scorn on the idea that the ban was safeguarding the welfare of learners and raising concern over the success rates of apprenticeships taken by those from ethnic minority backgrounds.

      “It would appear that learners from some of our most disadvantaged communities and arguably the ones that need the most support are not doing anywhere near as well as learners from other backgrounds – and this saddens me immensely as many of my constituents have an African-Caribbean or Pakistani heritage,” he said.

      Labour MP for Ladywood Shabana Mahmood, who had spoken of her “deep concern” over ban welcomed the reversal. ”The college has made a wise decision to rethink its policy on banning veils for a group of women who would have potentially been excluded from education and skills training at the college had the ban been enforced,” she said.

      Meanwhile, back at the campus students agreed that the affair had been poorly handled.

      “It doesn’t affect us because it doesn’t affect our culture. We would never choose to wear the veil. I have seen two or three girls wearing it – that’s it. But it is their choice. It should not have been banned. It should never have been a big issue,” said one female student wearing a head scarf.

      Hala Al Jamal, 18, a health and social worker originally from Palestine said it was important to see other people’s perspective. “Maybe because I am a Muslim I do not find someone wearing a veil to be dangerous. But for other people it could be,” she said.

      ‘Walking coffins’? The Law in France

      France is the only country in Europe to have passed a law that prohibits face-covering in public, be it via niqab, burka, balaclava or helmet. In 2009 President Nicolas Sarkozy, below, compared burkas to “walking coffins” and declared that they were an unwelcome violation of France’s secular values.

      An act of parliament was passed in September 2010 and the ban came into effect six months later. Anyone who breaks the law is liable for a €150 fine or a period of “citizenship training”, while forcing someone to cover their face is punishable with a fine of €30,000, or €60,000 if that person is a minor.

      A law banning “conspicuous religious symbols” in schools (such as Islamic headscarves and turbans) had been passed in 2004. The ‘burka ban’ sparked protests in Karachi and condemnation from Amnesty International, although senior clerics at Egypt’s Al Azhar mosque, considered the foremost authority on Sunni theology, declared that the burka (a full body and face covering) and the niqab (a face covering where only the eyes are visible) had “no place in Islam”.

      Police did not initially act on the law, and the first women were not fined until September 2011.

      A group of Pussy Riot supporters wearing balaclavas were arrested in Marseille in 2012, while in July a police station in Trappes was attacked by hundreds of youths after officers stopped a veiled woman in the town. Of France’s millions of Muslims, only around 2,000 are thought to fully cover their faces with veils.

      Iran allows first female triathlete to compete for country
      Shirin Gerami, 24, will race in full Islamic dress and Iranian flag colours in world triathlon grand final in London's Hyde Park
      Saeed Kamali Dehghan
      The Guardian, Thursday 12 September 2013 20.26 BST


      A 24-year-old woman from Iran will this weekend make history in London by becoming the first female triathlete to take part in a world championship under the green, white and red tricolour of the Islamic republic's flag.

      Shirin Gerami will join 8,500 athletes from 83 countries taking part in the PruHealth world triathlon grand final in Hyde Park, competing in full Islamic dress through a 1,500 metre swim, a 40km bike race and 10km run.

      Gerami, who lives in Britain, wrote to the authorities at Iran's ministry for sports and youth affairs four months ago, attempting to persuade them that Iranian women could compete in the triathlon. She travelled to Iran a few weeks ago to push her case. "When I turned up in person on their doorsteps, they realised that I am very serious, and I am willing to do anything," she told the Guardian in an interview from Tehran, one day before flying back to London. "I was overwhelmed by how far people went in order to support me."

      Officials at Iran's national triathlon federation told Gerami this week that she can participate in the London event. She will be competing in a full hijab that will cover her body from head to toe, a dress she has worked on to make sure it meets Iran's requirements. Organisers of the London grand final have also agreed to provide a tent for her to be able to change clothes as soon as she gets out of the water.

      Gerami said her few months' struggle had been "one of the most surreal, enriching, enlightening experiences" of her life. "I can safely say I am a different person because of it. Everything in life has its ups and downs, and I'm not claiming that it has been all easy," she said. "The most important lesson was that I should always be sincere, always believe in my dream, and never, never give up."

      She added that she wanted to share the triathlon with her fellow Iranian women. "Triathlon … is still not very established in Iran, to date women do not participate in triathlons," she said.

      "I wanted to share triathlon, therefore, all the empowerment it has given me, with others and encourage others to experience and benefit from something that is dear to me."

      By representing Iran, Gerami said, she wanted to tell "the other story of Iran", that positive stories about her home country do exist.

      "I wanted to show that what people dismiss as impossible, is actually possible and this universal rule applies to all countries, to all people," she said. "What kept me going was that Iran's triathlon federation never said no.

      "They would point out the issues, but they never shut the door on my face. They would always respond positively when I went back with a solution. For that, I am very grateful."

      She added: "At times it felt that the riddles would get more and more complex, but I like to believe that all riddles can be solved, and I therefore kept going."

      Previously, Iran has prevented female swimmers from participating in overseas competitions. The Women's Islamic Games in Tehran is one of the few international events where domestic swimmers are permitted to take part.

      Women in Iran can use public swimming pools at gender-segregated times, or women-only sections, but sports officials have previously been reluctant to allow them into open waters.

      It is not clear if the change of heart over Gerami has anything to do with the new administration of the moderate president, Hassan Rouhani, who took office last month.

      Gerami's fight for recognition by the authorities follows the case of Elham Asghari who in June swam 20km in full Islamic dress in the tidal waters of the chilly Caspian sea in northern Iran. However, the authorities denied her record-breaking nine-hour feat, saying her "un-Islamic attire" was unacceptable.

      Asghari, 32, has said despite designing a special swimsuit to put on while swimming, which added some 6kg to her weight in water, Iran's sports authorities refused to recognise her achievement. But in order to make her frustration heard by the officials, Asghari publicised her plight by releasing a video online which was viewed by thousands of viewers. "Swimming is not exclusively for men – we ladies do well too," she said in the video. Iranian authorities appeared particularly worried about how female athletes' bodies appeared as they came out of the water in wetsuits.

      Unlike Asghari, Gerami has not complained about the difficulties of wearing her gear. "What prompted me to make a dress is because if I wanted to represent Iran, if I wanted to be racing under their name, then I have to respect its values and beliefs," she said.

      "What is going to be different is that I will be climbing out in to a tent where I can change into my cycling and running clothes - I guess I won't have other people's stuff to trip over in transition, so I'm gonna treat that as a bonus."

      The International Triathlon Union said it considers gender equality as very important and has supported Shirin Gerami in her triathlon journey.

      Marisol Casado, the International Triathlon Union's president, said: "ITU is extremely happy and proud to support Shirin in her triathlon journey. She has displayed incredible courage and tenacity this week, which speaks volumes of her."

      She added: "ITU and our partners at UpSolut worked with Shirin to create specific clothing that she is both safe and comfortable in, as well as a portable changing room in the transition area where she can change into different attire for the differing triathlon disciplines."

      Casado said Iran's sports ministry has shown support for Gerami and with that she was able to be registered for the grand final but the president said she was unable to confirm whether Iran's national triathlon federation has given its final approval.

      Do not wear headscarves; do not wear crucifixes; do not question the syllabus: France’s school rules
      JOHN LICHFIELD Author Biography PARIS Monday 09 September 2013


      All pupils in French state schools will be reminded this week that they are not allowed to wear items of religious clothing such as headscarves or crucifixes, nor object to the school curriculum on religious grounds, in a 15-point written statement to be displayed on school walls.

      Some critics have denounced the charte de laicité or “secularism charter” as a thinly veiled attack on Islam. Others complain that it is an inadequate response to the growing influence of intolerant strains of Islam in the multiracial suburbs of French cities.

      The Education Minister, Vincent Peillon, says the charter, which contains no new rules, is simply a restatement of the principle of “secularity”, or separation between church and state, established in France 108 years ago.

      The charter tells pupils they cannot object to parts of the state curriculum – such as the teaching of evolution or the Holocaust – on religious or political grounds. It reminds teachers that they are not allowed to bring their own religious or political beliefs into the classroom.

      Another article recalls that since 2004 it has been illegal to wear religious clothes or symbols in state schools. Several articles make the case for “secularity” as a protection rather than a threat – a guarantee of the rights and equality of all religions and not an attack on the principle of faith itself.

      Article 4 says: “Secularism guarantees freedom of conscience for all. Everyone is free to believe or not to believe.”

      Most moderate Islamic groups have accepted the charter. Others see a hidden agenda. Abdallah Zekri, president of the Observatory on Islamophobia, said: “This charter was supposedly made to combat sectarianism. But honestly, I feel targeted because now when anyone talks about ‘sectarianism’, they’re really talking about Muslims.”

      Mr Peillon, who announced the charter last December, insists it is not anti-Islam. “Secularity should not be reduced to an obsession with Islam,” he said. “The vast majority of our Muslim citizens are convinced of the advantages of a secular state.”

      Nonetheless, the charter arises partly from a rash of incidents in which Muslim pupils have objected, on religious grounds, to science teaching on evolution or to history classes on the Holocaust or the Israel-Palestine dispute. The charter says students have a right to make their opinions known but they cannot refuse to study the state curriculum.

      Article 15 says: “No pupil can invoke a religious or political conviction to challenge a teacher’s right to cover parts of the programme.”

      The charter has also been criticised by some teachers. Christophe Varagnac, a history teacher in Bordeaux, who has written about violence in schools, said: “[Muslim] pupils can see perfectly well that Catholicism is more favoured than other religions in France. If you argue for secularity in those circumstances, you are inevitably suspected of propaganda.”

      Philippe Tournier, of the headteachers’ union, the SNPDEN, said: “Who can be against such a charter? No one. But if you really want to fight against the growing sectarianism found in some schools… you have to reform the school catchment areas which reinforce community and ethnic boundaries.”

      Other teachers complain that a red, white and blue poster on the school wall is not enough. Mr Peillon agrees. “A pedagogical kit” is to be sent to teachers to help them to explain the charter to pupils.

      From 2015, the minister plans to impose classes in “secular morality” at all levels of education from three to 18. After an outcry from religious groups – Catholic as well as Muslim – the classes will be renamed “moral and civic instruction”. Mr Peillon said: “Schools must teach these values, explain their meaning, remember their history. If we do not teach them, do not be surprised if they were misunderstood or even ignored.”

      Zeroual, a 14-year-old Muslim student interviewed by the newspaper Le Parisien on Monday, seemed already to have learned his lesson by heart.

      “Luckily, we have secularism to help everyone to agree,” he said. “Without it, in the classroom, the Christians would be on the backs of the Muslims and the Muslims on the backs of the Jews.”

      US: Mass. bar examiners to review religious wear rules
      Test taker who had authorization interrupted due to her hijab
      By Lisa Wangsness | GLOBE STAFF AUGUST 13, 2013


      Iman Abdulrazzak, an observant Muslim, realized at the last minute that she needed special permission to wear her headscarf while taking the Massachusetts bar exam. She scrambled to fax her request for an exemption to the ban on hats and other headwear. She called the board’s office in Boston repeatedly to make sure it got through.

      No one said anything about her headscarf when she arrived at Western New England University School of Law in Springfield to take the high-stakes test to become a lawyer Aug. 1. But halfway through the morning session, a proctor placed a note on her desk: “Head wear may not be worn during the examination without prior written approval. . . . Please remove your head wear and place it under your desk for the afternoon session.”

      “I was like, ‘Do I leave now? Is it even worth continuing?’ ” said Abdulrazzak, of Pittsfield, who is 24 and has worn the hijab since she was 12. “For 10 minutes, I was terribly confused. I tried telling one of the proctors that I had authorization — he kind of shushed me.”

      She kept working on the test. The problem was cleared up during the lunch break, when a proctor supervisor called the Board of Bar Examiners in Boston and confirmed that the office had approved Abdulrazzak’s request for a religious exemption.

      But Abdulrazzak said that the distraction and distress cost her about 10 minutes in the morning session and that she was not able to fully answer all of the essay questions.

      ‘It is such an intrinsic part of religious iden-tity, it would be . . . distressing to be asked to remove it.’

      Quote Icon
      “I just tried my best to get down the bare minimum of the answers in the time left and hoped for the best,” she said.

      The results of the exam will be posted by Nov. 1.

      Marilyn Wellington, executive director of the Massachusetts Board of Bar Examiners, called the mix-up “very unfortunate” and said the board takes responsibility for the mistake.

      She said the board may consider revising its rule requiring prior authorization for religious headwear. The rule was established to prevent people from concealing notes or other information that could be used to cheat on the exam, she said, not to inhibit religious practice.

      Normally, the Board of Bar Examiners notifies proctor supervisors of any test-takers who have obtained authorization to wear religious headgear during the exam.

      Abdulrazzak said the proctor supervisor in her case seemed unable to find a notation of the authorization in her official binder. But she said the supervisor “was really nice.”

      “She apologized right away and made sure I had a complaint form,” Abdulrazzak said.

      The legal website Above the Law first reported the story.

      Wellington said the board is looking into what happened and would take a close look at its policies and training practices “to make sure they make sense and that they don’t result in issues such as this.”

      “It shouldn’t have happened, and we won’t let it happen again,” she said.

      Quesiyah Ali, a member of the board of the New England Muslim Bar Association, questioned why a proctor would interrupt a test-taker, rather than raise the issue before the test began.

      Ali also said proctors should be made aware that asking a Muslim woman to remove her hijab in public is “a violation of the highest order,” not remotely akin to asking someone to remove a baseball cap indoors.

      “It would be like a nun being asked to remove a [veil] or a Sikh being asked to remove a turban,” Ali said.

      “It is such an intrinsic part of religious identity, it would be extremely distressing to be asked to remove it,” she said, especially in the midst of a high-stress exam.

      Charles C. Haynes, director of the Religious Freedom Education Project at the Newseum in Washington, said that as the nation becomes more diverse, requests for religious accommodation are becoming more common in schools, workplaces, and other arenas.

      “Incidents in themselves may be small and may seem not so important,” he said. “But the big picture is, it’s calling us to work out how we are going to deal with these differences in our public spaces as we become more religiously diverse in this country.”

      At least one other similar instance happened during the administration of the Massachusetts bar exam two years ago. Hania Masud, 28, a New York lawyer who took the bar in Boston in 2011, said she had not realized she needed a special exception to the no-hats rule in order to wear her hijab during the exam. During a break, she said, she was summoned to the front of the room, where a proctor told her she needed preauthorization to wear her head scarf and that they would address the issue after the test was over.

      “I went back to my seat and burst into tears, which was really, really embarrassing; I never, ever cry,” she said. “I was really scared they would invalidate my test scores after taking the exam.”

      Her brother, who was also taking the exam, urged her to focus, so she collected herself and tried her best. Afterward, another proctor told her there was no problem. The board never contacted her about it, Masud passed the test, and she never filed a complaint.

      Abdulrazzak and Masud said they see no reason why bar exam-takers should need advance approval to wear religious headwear.

      “If anything, maybe at the door you could sign a statement saying this is for religious reasons, so it could be used against you if you are lying,” said Abdulrazzak.

      Both women sat for the bar exam in other states before taking the Massachusetts exam — Abdulrazzak in Connecticut and Masud in New York — and neither encountered problems. Both states ban secular headwear such as baseball caps or hoods, but religious headwear like a hijab or yarmulke is permitted, and no prior authorization is required to wear them.

      “If it’s obviously religious headgear, we allow them to wear it,” said Kathleen B. Harrington, administrative director of the Connecticut Bar Examining Committee.

      Rhode Island has a similar policy. In New Hampshire, proctors must approve of any religious headgear at the exam site. Maine does not allow hats, and its policy is silent on religious exceptions.

      Deborah Firestone, executive director of the Maine Bar of Board Examiners, said the issue has not come up in recent memory, but the no-hat rule implies that an individual should obtain advance approval to wear religious headgear to the exam. If someone fails to do so, she said, the item may be subject to inspection on site before the test starts.

      “It might be time to have a written policy, though,” she wrote in an e-mail.

      John J. McAlary, executive director of the New York State Board of Law Examiners, said that on one occasion, a woman arrived to take the New York bar wearing a niqab, a veil that covers the face up to the eyes. Proctors needed to confirm her identity, so a female proctor took her into a private room before the test and asked her to remove her veil briefly so the proctor could make sure her face matched her photo ID. He said proctors now receive training to handle such situations.

      Martha I. Hicks-Robinson, bar admissions administrator for the Vermont Board of Bar Examiners, said she would personally examine any religious headgear before the test to make sure it contained no cheating materials, as she once did in the case of a man wearing a yarmulke.

      “To interrupt someone in the middle of the exam — we absolutely wouldn’t do something like that,” she said, unless the person appeared to be cheating.

      Lisa Wangsness can be reached at lwangsness@....

      Philippine Muslim Teachers to Remove Hijab
      OnIslam & Newspapers
      Tuesday, 23 July 2013 13:55


      CAIRO – The Philippine government has ordered Muslim teachers in public schools not to wear face-veils in the classroom, saying the decision would promote better relationships between teachers and pupils.

      “Once the ustadja (teacher) is in the classroom, she is requested to remove the veil,” Education Secretary Armin Luistro said in an order issued earlier this month cited by The Philippine Daily Inquirer on Tuesday, July 23.

      “In support of effective language teaching, recognition and discrimination of letters and their sounds are enhanced. Lip formation significantly helps in the correct production of the letter sounds,” Luistro said.

      Luistro said the new decision would allow students to better communicate with the teacher in the class.

      Seeing the teacher’s face without the veil would be necessary “for proper identification of the teachers by the pupils, thus promoting better teacher-pupil relationship,” he added.

      Issuing the new decision, the secretary of the Department of Education confirmed the government respect religious rights of students in school.

      “While the Department supports and promotes the right of Muslim Filipino women to wear hijab/veil (or headdress), it does not compel Muslim Filipino women to wear it,” Luistro said.

      During their Physical Education subject, Muslim school girls are allowed to wear “appropriate clothing in accordance with their religious beliefs,” he added.

      Muslims make up nearly 8 percent of the total populace in the largely Catholic Philippines.

      The mineral-rich southern region of Mindanao, Islam's birthplace in the Philippines, is home to 5 million Muslims.

      Islam reached the Philippines in the 13th century, about 200 years before Christianity.


      Hearing about the new decision, the government's Office of Muslim Affairs said it agreed with the education department's measures.

      Roque Morales, an adviser to the office, added that while he did not know how many Muslim Filipinas were working as teachers, the practice of wearing veils is widespread in the southern Philippines.

      "You would almost see it everywhere," he told Agence France Presse (AFP).

      While hijab is an obligatory code of dress for Muslim women, the majority of Muslim scholars agree that a woman is not obliged to wear the face veil.

      Scholars believe it is up to women to decide whether to take on the niqab or burqa, a loose outfit covering the whole body from head to toe and wore by some Muslim women.

      An earlier ban by a Catholic school in Mindanao on wearing hijab in the school premises drew angry condemnations.

      The ban, imposed last year, was opposed by the National Commission on Muslim Filipinos (NCMF) which criticized the school’s policy on hijab.

      The hijab ban also won flaks from human rights advocates for violating the right of Muslim students to practice religion, including the Philippine Alliance of Human Rights Advocates (PAHRA).

      Rights activists also called for an online campaign to gather one million signatures for a boycott of the Catholic College.

      In response, the school overturned the ban, allowing Muslim students to wear hijab as of June 2013.

      France's headscarf war: 'It's an attack on freedom'
      With rioting breaking out in Paris over the weekend, the row over Muslim headwear has erupted again. Will it lead to a new law against women wearing headscarves? And could that fan the flames of a French identity crisis?
      Angelique Chrisafis
      The Guardian, Monday 22 July 2013 18.37 BST


      Study finds Muslim women wearing headscarfs face job discrimination

      University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa
      Contact:Dolly M. Omiya, (808) 956-5645
      Public Information Officer, College of Business-External Relations Office
      Posted: May 23, 2013

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