Monday, May 7, 2007

Hijab in the dining room

Browsing advice columns daily is a guilty pleasure of mine. I quasi store the information in some recess of my mind, in the future event that I may one day be put in one of the situations discussed. Ask Amy has become one of my favorites, and now she's even more my fav:

Dear Amy: I live in a retirement community where all residents are provided one served meal each day. This meal is served by high school students in a dining area accommodating about 200 residents. These servers are both male and female, and wear white shirts/blouses and black pants/skirts. It is a uniform of sorts. Two of the female servers wear black scarves over their heads and around their necks, consistent with, I presume, their Muslim tradition. It offends my sense of propriety and decorum to have these two servers display their religious symbols in a private dining area, such that they cannot be ignored. I would like to complain to management, but I don't want to stir up a hornet's nest. Am I wrong?-- Kilroy

Dear Kilroy: I'm not sure what you find offensive. Are you offended by evidence of any religion in the dining room? Or do you mind the fact that these girls are Muslim and it is impossible for you to ignore that fact? The ideal function of the hijab is to project an air of modesty to avoid attention -- not draw it to themselves. And it seems that a black head scarf fits in with the black-and-white uniform for servers.
I wonder if you would be similarly offended if these girls wore Amish caps or if some of the young male waiters wore yarmulkes? Perhaps you would be. If so, and if any evidence of religion in your dining room offends you, then complain to management. But you will be stirring up a hornet's nest if you do.Unless these scarves somehow impair these young people's ability to serve you dinner, I don't think you have a leg to stand on. We live in a pluralistic society, and while it might be changing a bit fast for your taste, the freedom to practice and express one's religion is a pretty important aspect of what it means to be an American, right?

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