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SOME LEGAL ADVICE
Cases of Hijab discrimination against Muslim girls and women in Canada and
the United States are not uncommon.
However, there are measures sisters can take in both countries to fight
against such intolerance.
Below are some suggestions based on interviews Muslim civil right experts.
TIPS FOR DISCRIMINATION IN THE UNITED STATES
There are three main areas where discrimination tends to take place against
sisters who wear Hijab: in employment, public facilities and education.
Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act guarantees the right of employees
to wear Hijab in the workplace.
Br. Salahudin pointed out that it is very important for sisters to remember
that the employee has to inform the employer either at the beginning of
the job, during the job interview or once they've been questioned about
the Hijab that they wear the Hijab for religious reasons.
It is preferable that this be done in writing.
If your employer is not allowing you to wear Hijab:
- Inform your employer in writing that you wear Hijab for religious
- If s/he still denies you the right to wear your Hijab, write a letter
to him/her explaining that this is a violation of your civil rights.
- If this has no affect on the employer, see if there is a body within
the company that can handle this complaint. Most larger companies have
an Employment Opportunities Office (EEO) or a Human Resources department
where a complaint can be filed.
- If nothing happens in this regard, file a complaint with the Equal
Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) in writing. They will conduct
an interview with you about your complaint.
NOTE: in most cases you have the legal right to wear Hijab on the job.
The only exception would be if the Hijab becomes a health or safety issue.
IN PUBLIC FACILITIES
If you are called names by strangers at a public facility like in the
mall or on the street, there is not very much you can do.
If you go to a restaurant and you are treated differently by an employee,
or you are thrown out of a store because of your Hijab, this is religious
- If you are kicked out of a store, verbally approach the manager of
- If this does not resolve the issue, write a letter to the store's
corporate or legal office. You can complain and ask for an apology.
- This can even reach the level of a lawsuit if you suffered injury.
This is covered under Title II of the Civil Rights Act which covers
discrimination in public places.
If someone pulls off your Hijab or threatens to physically harm you because
of your Hijab anywhere, you can file a criminal assault charge with local
police. However, you would have to be able to identify, by appearance,
In many states, you can go into small claims court by filing a civil assault
charge if this happens.
In some states, this would be considered a hate crime, for which there
are more severe punishments.
If a professor makes offensive or derogatory statements about your Hijab,
- File a complaint with the principal.
- If that doesn't work, file a complaint with the local school board.
- You can file a lawsuit.
TIPS FOR DISCRIMINATION IN CANADA
- In general, under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, as
well as under various human rights protections at provincial levels,
Muslim women and men have been guaranteed full religious freedom.
- If you have been discriminated against, the first step is to deal
with the perpetrator directly, whether this person is an employer, store
employee, etc. However, this is not necessary if you feel that the perpetrator
is a danger to your safety.
- If the discrimination has been at the hands of an employer, most workplaces
have an internal body dealing with complaints of discrimination. You
should approach this body.
- As well, at this stage, you can approach a Muslim organization like
the CMCLA to help you deal with this incident of discrimination.
I would say the vast majority of cases can be resolved by approaching
either the perpetrator or someone who's their senior and involving some
Muslim organization, Br.. Faisal said.
- However, if this is not the case, then the case can be taken to the
human rights commission at the provincial or federal level.
- To determine which level you must go to, you have to first find out
under which jurisdiction the area you are dealing with falls under.
For example, in Canada, education is under provincial jurisdiction,
therefore, you would have to approach your province's human rights commission,
not its federal equivalent.
However, if you had a complaint about something regarding the Canadian
military, this falls under federal jurisdiction, therefore, you would
have to approach the federal human rights commission.
5. Br.. Faisal did warn, however, that going forward with a complaint
with the commissions is a long, protracted process with
minimal compensation. The purpose really is to receive punitive damages.
As well, if the discrimination has been at the hands of an employer
who fired you because of your Hijab, the commission will not generally
force the employer to allow you back into that job.
6. If you are not satisfied with the commission's ruling, you can appeal
to a provincial level court.
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