This story is making waves in Australia at the moment. I have no problem with a school making its teachers wear a hijab on condition of employment. However, if a teacher has been working without a hijab, I think it is unfair to suddenly demand that they do:
SOUTH Australia’s biggest Islamic school has warned teachers, including many non-Muslims, that they will lose their jobs if they do not wear a hijab to school functions and outings.
Up to 20 non-Muslim female teachers, who do not wish to be named, have been told they will be sacked from the Islamic College of South Australia’s West Croydon campus after three warnings if they do not wear a headscarf to cover their hair.
The order, from the school’s governing board and chairman Faruk Kahn, contradicts the policy of the Australian Federation of Islamic Councils.
Mr Kahn yesterday referred The Advertiser to AFIC for comment on the matter. “I have no comment … I think you better go to AFIC, they are the only ones that are to make comment,” Mr Kahn said.
School principal Kadir Emniyet did not return calls.
AFIC assistant secretary Keysar Trad said the policy was at odds with the national federation, but it was powerless to intervene.
“I’m aware there’s a policy at that school with respect to the scarf,” Mr Trad said.
“The AFIC policy is not to require any teacher to observe the hijab. In SA, the board itself has decided they want to operate in their way and we are not allowed to interfere in the matter.
“We maintain that staff should dress modestly but not be required by the nature of policy to wear the hijab.”
Mr Trad said that matters of unfair dismissal resulting from teachers disobeying the school’s hijab policy should be referred to Fair Work Australia.
“It’s confusing for our children to see their teachers wearing the scarf in school and then they take it off when they are out shopping and the children see them there,” he said.
“It is also a respect thing for our staff. If they are not Muslim they should not be forced to dress as Muslim.”
One long-term teacher at the Islamic College of SA said a new school board was now “forcing teachers to put hijabs back on”.
“There’s no discussion … you wear it or you’re fired,” the teacher said. “The teachers have always adhered to the policies and we are respectful of that.
“We are respectful of their religion but they are not going to respect us.”
The college has about 800 students and 40 staff.
Guidelines from the Australian Federation of Islamic Councils to other Islamic schools do not require teachers to wear hijabs.
Glen Seidel, state secretary of the Independent Education Union, said the union was monitoring the policy.
“Essentially it means female staff have to wear a scarf covering most of their hair, and not have legs and arms exposed,” he said.
“In 2012, the requirement was being managed moderately, but with a new principal in 2013 enacting the decisions of a very conservative school board, there is no room for compromise.”
Mr Seidel said the union’s view is staff should be free to decide whether to wear a scarf.
“The ultimate test would be in an unfair dismissal action to see if that requirement would be considered a `reasonable direction’ and the termination therefore being reasonable.
“This is not a matter (in which) religious organisations are exempted from equal opportunity legislation in order to not cause offence to the `adherents of the faith’,” Mr Seidel said.
“Non-Islamic staff are not being discriminated (against) in their employment as it is the same code for all.
“Non-Islamic staff can, however, feel rightly aggrieved that they are being coerced to adopt the dress code of a religion to which they do not belong.”
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