There seem to be a fair few different narratives flying around on this, so I thought I’d stick my oar in.
It’s not exactly a secret that the Abrahamic faiths have an unhealthy obsession with controlling and suppressing sexuality, predominantly female sexuality. This patriarchy manifests itself in many religious practises and in religious hangovers in secular societies.
Examples would be bans on pre-marital sex, the need for a woman to bleed on their wedding night, women discouraged from travelling alone, and of course the various parts of a woman’s body that must be covered for reasons of “modesty”.
The head scarf worn by Ms Elauf is a religious garment designed to control her sexuality by hiding her hair. If asked for my opinion, I would always come down on the side of a woman not being shamed into hiding her hair or face. I think as a species we would progress a long way by learning to embrace and encourage sexuality rather than suppressing it.
But this case isn’t about religion, or sexuality. It’s about freedom. And here, I think Ms Elauf has scored an own goal.
I will always, always, ALWAYS support the right of a woman to toss her head scarf in the trash. But because I’m a consistent advocate for freedom, I will also always support her right to ignore my opinion and put her head scarf on. Her hair, her choice.
But, crucially, I will always support the notion that an employer should be able to refuse her employment based on her choice. I might disagree with their reasoning, but their company, their choice. Freedom.
Religious beliefs are irrational beliefs, and I don’t subscribe to the notion that we should put religious beliefs in another box to other irrational beliefs. I also think that if how someone looks is important to a job, it makes sense that an employer should be able to factor how the applicant looks into whether or not to hire them.