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Q. What are the requirements for Muslim women's dress?

A: Rules regarding Muslim women's (and men's) attire are derived from the Quran, Islam's revealed text, and the traditions (hadith) of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him). In the Quran, God states: "Say to the believing men that they should lower their gaze and guard their modesty...And say to the believing women that they should lower their gaze and guard their modesty; that they should not display their beauty
and adornments except what (must ordinarily) appear thereof; that they should draw their veils over their bosoms and not display their beauty except to their husbands, their fathers...(a list of exceptions)" [Chapter 24, verses 30-31] Also, "O Prophet! Tell thy wives and daughters, and the believing women, that they should cast their outer
garments over their persons...that they should be known and not molested." [Chapter 33, verse 59]

In one tradition, the Prophet Muhammad is quoted as saying: "...If the woman reaches the age of puberty, no part of her body should be seen but this --- and he pointed to his face and hands."

From these and other references, the vast majority of Muslim scholars and jurists, past and present, have determined the minimum requirements for Muslim women's dress: 1) Clothing must cover the entire body, with the exception of the face and the hands. 2) The attire should not be form fitting, sheer or so eye-catching as to attract undue attention or
reveal the shape of the body.

There are similar, yet less obvious requirements for a Muslim male's attire. 1) A Muslim man must always be covered from the navel to the knees. 2) A Muslim man should similarly not wear tight, sheer, revealing, or eye-catching clothing. In addition, a Muslim man is prohibited from wearing silk clothing (except for medical reasons) or
gold jewelry. A Muslim woman may wear silk or gold.

(References: "The Muslim Woman's Dress," Dr. Jamal Badawi, Ta-Ha Publishers; "Hijab in Islam," Maulana Wahiduddin Khan, Al-Risala Books; "The Islamic Ruling Regarding Women's Dress," Abu Bilal Mustafa Al-Kanadi, Abul-Qasim Publishing; "Islamic Dress," Muslim Women of Minnesota; "Your Hijab and U.S. Law," North American Council for Muslim Women)

Q. Is Islamic dress appropriate for modern times?

A: Islamic dress is modern and practical. Muslim women wearing Islamic dress work and study without any problems or constraints.


Q. Does Islamic dress imply that women are submissive or inferior to men? A: Islamic dress is one of many rights granted to Islamic women. Modest clothing is worn in obedience to God and has nothing to do with submissiveness to men. Muslim men and women have similar rights and obligations and both submit to God.

Q. But aren't there Muslim women who do not wear Islamic Dress, or hijab?

A: Some Muslim women choose not to wear hijab. Some may want to wear it but believe they cannot get a job wearing a head scarf. Others may not be aware of the requirement or are under the mistaken impression that wearing hijab is an indication of inferior status.

Q. Why is Islamic dress becoming an issue for personnel managers and supervisors?

A: The Muslim community in American is growing rapidly. Growth factors include conversions to Islam, immigration from Muslim countries and high birth rates for Muslim families. As the community grows, more Muslim women will enter the work force. In many cases, these women wish both to work and to maintain their religious convictions. It should be possible to fulfill both goals.

Q. What issues do Muslim women face in the workplace?

A: Muslim women report that the issue of attire comes up most often in the initial interview for a job. Some interviewers will ask if the prospective employee plans to wear the scarf to work. Others may inappropriately inquire about religious practices or beliefs. Sometimes the prospective employee, feeling pressure to earn a living, will take
off the scarf for the interview and then put it on when hired for the job. Modest dress should not be equated with incompetence.

Other issues include unwanted touching or pulling on scarves by other employees, verbal harassment or subtle ostracism and denial of promotion. Many Muslims also object to being pressured to attend celebrations of other religious traditions or to attend
employer-sponsored celebrations at which alcohol is served.

Q. What can an employer reasonably require of a woman wearing hijab?

A: An employer can ask that an employee's attire not pose a danger to that employee or to others. For example, a Muslim woman who wears her head scarf so that loose ends are exposed should not be operating a drill press or similar machinery. That employee could be asked to arrange her hijab so that the loose ends are tucked in. An employer can
ask that the hijab be neat and clean and in a color that does not clash with a company uniform.
Q. What are the legal precedents on this issue?

A: Many cases have demonstrated an employee's legal right to reasonable ccommodation in matters of faith. Examples: 1) The failure of other Muslim employees to wear headscarves is legally irrelevant. The employee need only show sincerely-held religious beliefs. (E.E.O.C. v. Reads, Inc., 1991) 2) There are no health or safety concerns at issue. (Cf. E.E.O.C. Dec. No. 82-1, 1982, also E.E.O.C. Dec. No. 81-20, 1981) 3) Companies cannot give effect to private biases. In other words, just because an employer believes customers will be prejudiced against a woman in a scarf, that does not mean the mployee can be fired. (Palmer v. Sidoti, 1984, also Cf. Sprogis v. United Air Lines, Inc., 1971) 4) An employer must demonstrate "undue hardship" caused by the wearing of religious attire. (TWA v. Hardison, 1977) Hardships recognized by the courts include cost to the employer or effect on co-workers. 5) Dress codes can have disproportionate impact on certain faiths. (E.E.O.C. Dec. No. 71-2620, 1971, also E.E.O.C. Dec. No. 71-779, 1970)

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