A few weeks ago, I got accepted at my first choice of university in London. With London being as expensive as it is, I thought getting a job may be a good idea. I’d never had a job before so I was a little nervous about it. Little did I know that the mere fact that I wear a hijab would be my doom — and not my lack of experience.
I decided I wanted to apply for a catering job and sent out a few applications. A few days later, I got a call back from a company. I got through to recruitment and they checked that the details they had on me were correct. Then the interview began. The first question they asked me was whether I had visible tattoos, piercings or brightly coloured hair.
I replied no but I told them that I did wear a hijab — a move that, in hindsight, was a mistake. The woman on the other line proceeded to tell me that although the company respected my religious freedom and its expression, they don’t accept applicants who wear any form of headwear, including hijabs and turbans. She stated that this was because their clients were concerned for ‘health and safety reasons’ in case it got ‘caught on anything’. She thanked me for my application, and I told her that I understood her case and ended the call.
Why does this matter?
This country is supposed to protect people from discrimination like this, but the way this interviewer phrased her reasoning suggests that companies are legally protected from their actions. And even if they’re not, I’m a student who wanted a part-time job so I’m obviously not going to pursue legal action. I didn’t believe the interviewer’s reasons for rejecting me, but there’s nothing I can do about it.
People always tell you to make the best of a bad situation. They say that you should learn from lost opportunities; that not getting the first job you apply for teaches you what not to do in the future. But what am I supposed to learn from people who refuse to hire me because I wear a hijab? That I should conform and become something that I’m not because it may make me more socially acceptable?
I went back and forth on whether I should write this article, weighing the pros and cons again and again. What if a future employer sees it and decides I am no longer an applicant they want? Then I decided that writing this type of article is something I must do for me. To vent about the issues that make me angry and discuss the topics that I feel are important — which would otherwise remain in a protective bunker. So, I wrote it anyway, in spite of my trepidations. Only time will tell if it was a smart move or not.