Corazon Miller is a NZ Herald reporter

No scarf, job seeker told, but jeweller says it was an error

A Muslim woman's employment hopes were dashed when a prospective manager told her not to bother applying for a jewellery store job because of her headscarf.

The second such incident within nine months at a store run by James Pascoe Group has led to its head office issuing a stern warning to staff that discrimination, on any grounds, will not be tolerated.

Mona Alfadli, 25, applied for a job as a retail assistant position at the New Lynn Stewart Dawsons on July 9. She says she was told it was a "waste of time" if she wouldn't remove her hijab.

"I felt embarrassed as it took a lot of courage to walk into the shop and speak to the manager regarding a job, especially since I was afraid of the rejection."


Alfadli, who lives in Avondale, has been looking for a job ever since she finished studying for her diploma in applied computer system engineering in November. Despite sending about five applications a day she's been unable to find a job. The latest rejection left her feeling depressed and at a loss what to do next.

She said her aspirations for her life in New Zealand was to find a "safe" home for her and her family, who settled in New Zealand as refugees from Kuwait in 2008. "I can do any job, I don't mind, but I will keep my hijab, I will keep my identity, and respect my culture and my religion."

She said it was her dream to get off the benefit, find work and help to support her family.

Alfadli's experience at the jewellery store follows on from a similar incident where former Kelston Girls College deputy head Fatima Mohammadi was initially turned away from an interview at the jewellery chain's Henderson branch because of her hijab in October.

She was later offered a summer job at the company's St Luke's branch.

Mohammadi was sad to hear another young woman had received similar treatment. "I really want something to be done about it, it's an issue. I'm sure there are other girls out there who face the same thing and are embarrassed to do anything about it."

I can do any job, I don't mind, but I will keep my hijab, I will keep my identity, and respect my culture and my religion.
Mona Alfadli, job applicant

Stewart Dawsons group chief financial officer Kevin Turner said he was "devastated" to learn of the latest incident.

"The manager in question is new to the company, so she hadn't been with us for very long," he said.

"Having said that she should have known better, she was not following company policy. We are taking this absolutely seriously, it's not okay and we will be following it up in the appropriate manner."

He said the company would apologise to Alfadli and would welcome the opportunity to interview her.

Management would once again be communicating with all staff that discrimination, on any grounds, was not acceptable, Turner said.

Dr Zain Ali, the head of the Islamic Studies Research Unit, said he was disappointed to hear of the two incidents.

"You are judging a person by a piece of clothing that they are wearing, they are not being offensive, they are not forcing anyone else to embrace their values.

"In fact, by looking for a job they are trying to be a contributing member of society ... for someone to say who you are and what you wear is not welcome, it's disappointing."

He said taking off the hijab was not as simple as taking off a cap.

"It's done from a deep faith commitment, just because you go to work, you shouldn't be expected to hide your faith."

Under the Human Rights Act 1993, discrimination against a person on the basis of their religious clothing is not allowed, unless there is a "good reason for it" such as significant health and safety concerns.

Last year's Human Rights Commission annual report showed that of the 1122 complaints alleging unlawful discrimination against the 1993 act, in the year ending June 2015, 49 were on the basis of religious beliefs. The commission would not comment on Alfadli's case but a spokeswoman said treating Muslim New Zealanders with respect shouldn't need to be enforced by law.

"Giving someone a fair go - not judging someone because of what they're wearing - is a responsibility for all New Zealanders."

A symbol of identity

• The hijab or scarf worn by Muslim women covers the hair, neck and chest.

• It is typically worn after the age of puberty in the presence of men outside their family.

• It's a symbol of modesty.

• In many cases it's a woman's choice whether or not she wears the hijab.

• The wearing of the hijab represents a woman's personal, cultural and religious identity.

• It's part of a Muslim woman's commitment to her faith.

- NZ Herald

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