The EU Hijab Ban and Its Implications

By

Rabia Salim

It’s a shame that the European Union has banned wearing religious symbols and clothing and this decision won’t and shouldn't go down with the public easily.  After this decision, two German Muslim women came into the headlines because they went to court when they were banned from wearing their headscarves at work.  These headlines hit a chord with me as I am a Muslim woman that practices her hijab as a Speech Language Pathologist in my workplace freely.  

The two main issues here are firstly, the oppression of women that want to wear the religious symbols, and secondly, the loss to the workplace of competent individuals.  The European Union is going down a dangerous path of infringing on the rights of these individuals, to practise their religion.  It also means this narrows the number of people who would be available to work.  It would create a loss of qualified individuals not willing to take off their scarves to keep their jobs.  

What’s dangerous is preventing any group of people from practicing core values, begs the question, why target people of faith?  The wearing of a scarf has become inherent to me and I can’t imagine life without it.  I wear it comfortably at work and I don’t feel it impedes my service to my clients.  I am not self conscious about it, and my colleagues and clients know me well enough by now.  Of course clients sometimes comment on it or ask questions about it, and I answer any questions.  Also I value my career as a Speech Therapist but if I was banned from wearing a scarf to work I would have to find another pathway, maybe try consulting where face to face interaction isn’t required.  I would actually feel very uncomfortable without it.  There is already a shortage of professionals able to fulfill school and college Educational Health Care Plans; therefore this also puts children with Special Education needs unnecessarily at risk. 

I also believe the European Union's ruling is only perpetuating discrimination.  At a time when my profession in particular, and many others, are opening up about diversity and speaking against racism, this is very disappointing, and is a backwards move.  I recently attended a webinar with the Royal College of Speech and Language Therapy on Anti-Racism.  We had many constructive conversations to combat racism in which members shared their negative experiences, especially stereotypes, and unconscious bias and how it feels.  I mentioned a few things, for example, when my 14 years old daughter got told at school, ‘you look like an Indian Barbie’, when ironically she is Pakistani. Opening up and having others accept discrimination is a step in the right direction. 

With the European Union’s inherently discriminatory ruling, that doesn’t allow for individual religious differences, it’s a lose-lose situation for too many. 

Rabia Salim is a mother of 3 and a Speech Therapist for pediatrics, school and college aged children with a range of special education needs. In her spare time she volunteers, cooks, plays sports travels and reads. She lives with her family in the outskirts of London, England. 

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