See the magic power of the Hijab, get yours now
You have to hand it to the French. They're ballsy.
First a recent case in England which showed the ridiculous nature of anti-discrimination laws. A hairdressing salon owner was fined for not hiring a Muslim. The owner liked her employees to show off the latest cuts by wearing the styles themselves.
While interviewing for a new position, she talked to one applicant, a devout Muslim who refused to remove her headscarf for any reason. This seemed incompatible with the position offered. Nevertheless a court case ensued in which the salon was fined £4,000 GBP for discrimination. With legal fees and other hassles, the owner nearly lost her business.
I remember a joke from The Wizard of Id where Blanche, filled with righteous indignation, walked into a bar to apply for a job labelled 'Men Only.' The owner shrugged and told her to stand in the Gents next to the urinals. 'You just hand them a towel when they're finished.' Some jobs are gender-specific I guess.
The debate over wearing the hijab in Irish schools has found an Irish answer. The minister simply asked the schools to make up their own minds.
Now, whether one wears a headscarf or not is of monumental disinterest to me personally. I've even been to nudist beaches when I was a child, and I have no problem with naturists either. But a sensible naturist knows that you wear at least a bikini for a trip to the bank down town.
I also lived in San Francisco for a while and one of the things I loved about that city was the non-judgemental freedom of expression granted to your wardrobe. I dressed pretty conservatively being Irish, but I was constantly delighted by the outrageous costumes that paraded down main street.
In the regimented atmosphere of a school things are different. If you have a strict uniform policy every single kid will try to break it somehow. Hem lines, sock colour, hairstyles. Wearing pajamas underneath is quite common these days. When one person gets away with something, the class is abuzz.
Allowing headscarves for Muslims sends a message in schools. I would read it like this:
'Respect authority. You must follow the rules which are the same for everyone. Except in the case of religion. This is a magic trump card which is more important than anything else on Earth. If a person believes something for "religious" reasons that takes automatic precedence over every other value in a society.'
It must be admitted, the belief that God wants one gender to put a piece of cloth on their head at all times is pure nonsense. Of course if you want to believe it, go ahead I can't stop you. But you must realise that this is out of step with modern society. Could you not add to the rule: 'Wherever practicable'?
If I was in a school where the kid next to me was allowed to wear a headscarf but I wasn't, I would turn up wearing one the very next day.
I would ask: Why does this person get special treatment? Because of some thoughts in her head about religion? Maybe I have the devout belief that it's cool to wear a headscarf (Axl Rose did in my day). Are my beliefs not as important? Oh, they're not categorised as 'religious' beliefs and so are non-magical. I see.
But we began with the French. A court has just decided to refuse citizenship to one radical Muslim lady because her views are not compatible with French society. She was living 'like a recluse' in 'total submission to her male relatives.'
When it's our turn, are we going to claim that sort of oppression is all just fine and dandy because it's religion? That is already our default position; we may call it 'live and let live,' but it's really about sweeping things under the carpet.
Regarding the hijab, Philip Watt of the National Consultative Committee on Racism and Interculturalism (we're against one, but for the other thing) thought we should allow the headscarf but
he stressed that allowing the hijab did not mean that all religious symbols and obligations should necessarily be allowed.
Special treatment for Muslims then. Sounds a bit discriminatory. Law suit anyone?