When in Rome

When they’re not busy getting butthurt by cartoons or teddy bears, radical Muslim-types rather like spending their time suing employers into compliance with their totally voluntary dress-code. Case in point:

Left: Bushra Noah. Right: Sarah Des Rosiers and Wedge staff.

Sarah Des Rosiers, owner of alternative hair salon Wedge, has been ambushed with a frivolous lawsuit by one Bushra Noah on grounds of religious discrimination, after dismissing Noah from a trial position at her hair salon. You see, Noah, a self-described ‘devout’ Muslim, didn’t think it was important to mention in her telephone interview that she wore a headscarf, even though she admits that this is the reason she believes she had been turned down for hair-styling jobs in the past. Needless to say, when she rocked up to work she was requested to uncover her hair while at the salon, but she refused on grounds that it was ‘immodest’.

That’s right. A hairdresser who finds uncovered hair immoral.

Having been turned down by no less than twenty-five other salons, presumably for the same reason, Noah decided she’s had enough and set about destroying the business that Des Rosiers had poured her soul into.

Taken from the Daily Mail (yeah, I know):

Miss Des Rosiers said: “When a potential client walks past on the street, they look into a salon at the stylists to get an impression of what haircut they are going to get there.”
“If an employee were wearing a baseball cap or cowboy hat I would ask them to remove it at work.”
“It has nothing to do with religion. But I now feel like I have been branded a racist. My name is being dragged through the mud.”
She went on: “This girl is suing me for more than I earn in a year.”

If Noah were really intelligent, she would have applied for a position at Spearmint Rhino. Imagine the millions she could have sued them for.

Opinion time: No, sorry. Being religious is NOT a condition you are born with that cannot be helped. You do not have alopecia or male pattern baldness or cancer. You elect to follow an interpretation of a religion which makes you look like a goofy old lady and thus finding a job in your chosen profession is very difficult. Oh WELL. A nudist can’t get a job at a day care center, McDonald’s won’t hire a vegetarian who refuses to flip burgers, and Abercrombie & Fitch wouldn’t even give me a job application form… because I look like a TWAT. Your chosen lifestyle is not special simply because you employ a deity. Legal policy needs to change to protect those who truly are discriminated against, not to honour bogus claims like this one.

Best of luck to you, Miss Des Rosiers, and a big thanks from Coilhouse to everyone who showed up to the fund-raising event Friday night.

28 Responses to “When in Rome”

  1. gooby Says:

    Even IF it were a condition you were born with, it seems some discrimination can be an employers prerogative? If I were allergic to make up and was turned down a job at the clown emporium for refusing to wear clown face, or turned down a job at the fishmongers because touching fish makes me die, I would find t hard to hold their discrimination against me.

    I’ve known tons of Mowry folk who have trouble getting jobs because of the facial tats, and its sad, so I can understand a bit of wear she is coming from, but in their case, the tats rarely create any kinda handicap to the profession, its just scary lookin to people.

    Her religion dictates modesty, thats fine! I loves me some Amish dress! But then why apply at a job that represents itself with extraordinary flamboyance? Kinda contradictory to your own beliefs?

    On a side note, I’ve known some pretty smokin hot chadour wearin ladies in my time, no goofy old lady comments for them!

  2. Jerem Morrow Says:

    Religion begets insanity und charlatan scam artists.

  3. Khyber Says:

    You know what the absurdists would say about this right?
    …that it is absurd!

    Really, it is! It is the same thing as wearing a uniform essentially, albeit most of them make you wear something silly rather than asking you to look more like your lovely self.

    Rules are rules. If you do not like them, do not take the job, get fired, or quit. Although Miss Bushra Noah did not, I do not see her having any right to sue over for discrimination when the decision was hers regardless of her opinions and beliefs of modesty. Decisions in the same ball-park have certainly kept me from getting hired, and also fired from several places of employment.

    Choices of lifestyle and belief should definitley be protected, although difficulties as these are met every day. You cannot expect the world to cater to your whims, especially in a place of business …where you are generally most-certainly there to cater to theirs; hopefully only reasonabley and moderately so, but you get the idea.

    I agree, this is all rather contradictory to the idea trying to be fought to uphold anyway. It is just …absurd!!!

  4. Michael W. Says:

    I suppose she would refuse to style a man’s hair too, or a Jewish patron? What will be kooky is if she wins the suit.

  5. Skerror Says:

    Bushra Noah should take her wretched, whiny, blamey energy and channel it into bettering her hair styling abilities. You know this lady has weak skills. If she’s trying to strike a blow for Muslim religious rights, she should be in politics not hair. Hopefully when this lawsuit gets thrown out, she does right in getting Sarah Des Rosiers’ good name back.

  6. libberillious Says:

    I’ve worked for a corporate haircare company for the last ten years, I have to get certified in discrimination prevention every 24 months because of crap like this. The fact of the matter is that people like her get hired at places like mine ALL THE TIME. The notion that she’s been dismissed from 25 jobs because of her headress only tells me she’s not willing to work at a place, albeit less glamorous, that would hire her. Part of being a small business owner is that you do get to make your own rules, discriminatory (which this isn’t) or otherwise.
    That ridiculousness aside, if she loves doing hair so much, and I’m sure this alledged passion will come into play when this enevitably goes to trial, covering it up would be a bigger sin than showing it off.

  7. DJ Velveteen Says:

    I don’t think the concept of hijab makes people automatically whackadoo. The concept of modesty in Islam is exceptionally refined and nuanced, and bears resemblance to the best parts of Internet culture: the concept that you should be valued for what’s under your skin and clothes, not the other way around.

    That said, this reeks of hypocrisy to me. If I took a tenet of my belief seriously that suggests that hairstyles are a decadent and shallow form of self-expression, what kind of hairdresser am I really supposed to be? And how could I honestly expect to get picked up at a ritzy hair salon with that kind of attitude?

    I mean, come on. What’s next – Mormon sex therapists?

  8. Rachel Radness Says:

    She has no chance of winning this case.

    If she were to have worked there she would have been judging every client who came into the salon simply because their hair was exposed. It is obvious that she tried to get a job at a high profile + very cutting edge salon for the purpose of getting the attention of the media.

    My question is how the fuck does she have the funds to sue the salon if she is an unemployed hairdresser?

  9. Geoff Says:

    Being a hairdresser who finds her own hair immodest to display has got to involve some hardcore cognitive dissonance.

  10. J Says:

    Let me tell you how hard it is to get a job serving tables at Hooters as a guy.

    It might be a different story for government work but all a private business should need is “Sorry, you’re not what we’re looking for.”

  11. lucylle Says:

    I really can’t think of any other reason other than making a political/religious statement (a good point was made: I wonder if there is an organization “helping her out” with legal advice and expenses) that made miss Noah decide to apply for a job in an alternative, edgy salon filled with independent and strong-willed (=I figure anyone who opens their own business is mentally strong enough) women… wouldn’t that be considered a den of sin for a strict muslim such as her? And wouldn’t it be the equivalent of a strict catholic applying for a job at a nudist beach and then suing the business for immodesty? Or a vampire as a sunglasses tester?

    Lifestyle choices and beliefs are exactly that: if I choose to tattoo my whole face in order to look like a skeleton, I know I better invest in a case of Dermablend if I want to apply for a librarian job and have half a chance of being hired. And I bet that if I show up with a tshirt praising polygamy at a school for a position, I wouldn’t even get past fist interview.
    Both conditions wouldn’t invalidate my capacity to perform well at my task, yet at this point they constitute negative aspects for quite a lot of people and will definitely count towards deciding if I will be hired or not… and since it’s been my choice and only mine to showcase my beliefs and lifestyle, I should be the only one to “blame” if I don’t get the job.
    Every businessman able to pick what they think is best for their own business, providing that we’re talking about lifestyle choices and not racial/physical attributes. A hairdressed with a hat/scarf is defitinely not good publicity and plus, I bet the alternative clientele of the place probably requires styles that seldom are used in the muslim community so the question of expertise arises as well.

    I wish Sarah the best of luck with this Kafkian situation, hopefully the british law will act sensibly and dismiss the case.

  12. Milly von Hilly Says:

    To try to cover all of the feedback…
    I think the issue for me is that this headscarf is not an expression of personal taste or style: it’s a totally voluntary, self-imposed uniform on grounds that uncovered hair is immodest. The hypocrisy therein is what rubs me the wrong way. When you chose to present yourself to the world in a certain way you assume limitations upon yourself and approach your carreer of choice from that angle. There are hairdressers all over Europe, and the Muslim world, that cater to a Muslim customer base which would be comfortable submitting their tresses to a hairdresser who is ashamed of their own hair. There is nothing preventing her from seeking employment with such a firm.
    I’m not hating on the hajib…I actually like it in principle and find it aesthetically pleasing, depending on how it’s worn (ie: not like a goofy old lady). And Muslim women aren’t the only types to adorn a head-scarf (I, myself, quite like wearing one when I’m riding my pastel-blue scooter down a cobblestone street, grinning in my cat-eye sunglasses and capri trousers with my poodle in my handbag….ok, I made all that up).
    I would never balk at the idea of employing a woman in a hajib, because my business is fashion and a head scarf is a viable accessory. If I were a hairdresser, who’s young business relied upon walk-in clientele, I would not be so accommodating.

    Mormon sex therapist. Sounds hot.

  13. Milly von Hilly Says:

    I should also add that the Muslim community seems to be resoundingly against Bushra Noah on this issue, which is refreshing to hear.

  14. Milly von Hilly Says:

    @ Lucylle

    I believe that the council gives legal aid to those under a certain income bracket, and a British-born unemployed hairdresser could qualify for this. I’d assumed that was how she launched the lawsuit, but you make an interesting point: I hadn’t considered the angle that this incident was staged by some radical Muslim organization with their sights on driving liberal businesses into the ground. Worthy of investigation, that. Does anyone know who is representing Noah in this suit?

  15. Immie Says:

    Apparently when asked why she was choosing this salon, and not the 25 others who had refused to hire her, she replied that it was beccause ‘this one upset me the most’. I feel so sorry for Des Rosiers. If the situation were reversed and a western hairdresser tried to get a job at a devout muslim hairdressers (ahem) I’m sure they’d all be totally fine with them wearing their hair out.
    And Noah looks so smug in that picture! Arrrrrgh.

  16. Martin j DeKay Says:

    Once again, proof assholes come in all shapes and sizes.

  17. Nadya Says:

    I have a theory about why this particular salon upset her the most. It looks like the girls who work here at this salon are all about free expression, and maybe on some level Noah was jealous of the fact that they “let it all hang out,” while she feels bound (by upbringing, by choice) to her modesty. “I can’t have fun and no one else should, either.” Maybe that’s why she decided to try to shut them down, out of all possible other salons. Perhaps this was all even processed on a subconscious level. I know that for some people, wearing a hijab can actually be a liberating and empowering thing, but I don’t think this was one of those cases.

    Or, maybe I’m wrong. Maybe Des Rossiers did somehow say something to upset her, more than the others. Or maybe Des Rossiers opened up herself to a lawsuit much more easily by brining up the head scarf, whereas other salons probably just said “no, sorry,” without mentioning why.

    I know you’re curious about seeing some counter-arguments to this entire issue, and I’ve found them. Read the blog post and comments here. Pay special attention to Jessica’s comment; she brings up some interesting points!

  18. Milly von Hilly Says:

    Jessica’s comment would be a feasible scenario were this not a small salon, with only a few staff, that wishes to project kooky, alternative hairstyles. I think Sarah made a mistake by describing her salon as ‘urban’ and ‘funky’ because most salons in London have that aim, and it doesn’t denote an alternative direction which her salon appears to take from the images we’ve seen. If it were a massive establishment that catered to the general public, young and old, that would be a different story. They offer a particular type of service, and if a potential customer were looking for a place to get, say, neon-pink highlights they might be turned off on first glance by seeing a woman in hajib: not out of racism, but because you wouldn’t think it was the kind of place that caters to you needs.

    The hajib debate in this is not about whether the headgear is ‘cool’ or ‘uncool’, as those commenters seem to be dwelling over, but whether such dress represented the specialties of this salon.

  19. E. Black Says:

    DJ Velveteen, Mormon sex therapists probably exist. I know Mormon feminists do as do Christian Atheists. In this day and age anything is possible because everything is muddled.

  20. Jordan Says:

    one of the best funky salons in boston used to employ male hairdressers who kept their heads shaved, and yet they were still reputed for creating some of the best alternative styles in town. i was suspicious at first at having a bald hairdresser, but the proof was in his work, not on his own head! it doesn’t actually sound like Ms. Noah was a great fit for Wedge, and i’m not much of a proponent for patriarchal monotheism. but i’m still really disappointed in your coverage of this, which just reiterates a lot of the common-sense attitudes leveled as Muslims these days.

    for instance, the fact that she covers her hair in public does not indicate that she’s ashamed of her hair, nor is it as paradoxical as it seems for an observant (i wouldn’t call her radical!) Muslim woman to want to work as a stylist in a salon. Muslim women who cover their heads only do so out in public, and it’s easy to forget that they go uncovered at home, with family, or any time unrelated men aren’t around. even Saudi women wear a ton of makeup and apparently buy a lot of racy lingerie (!).

    i’d also think twice about the idea that we freaky types are more “free” than Muslim women who voluntarily veil themselves. our gender identities are in many ways as constrained as theirs, but we live in a culture which valorizes individual freedom even as it limits the ways in which we can even conceive of freedom.

  21. Nadya Says:

    Jordan, I definitely agree that it’s important to avoid slipping into reactionary Islamophobia when feeling outraged over situations like this. That said, I think that this post created a platform for some diverse, open-minded perspectives regarding Islam, such as DJ Velveteen’s observations on the hijab and why it’s worn.

    In regards to your point about the Boston hair salon, I think for me the difference is that a shaved head is a hairstyle (one that requires a lot of skill and discipline to maintain yourself, at that!), and a covered head is not a hairstyle.

    Paradoxically, I think that a really, really alternative salon could make an employee like Bushra Noah work to their advantage, image-wise. “We’re so alt, we are going to employ people like Bushra, who other hair salons won’t even touch, and she’s going to do an awesome job.” That would have be great. But Wedge was just starting out and I don’t know if Des Rossiers had that kind of confidence, and I don’t know if Bushra did understand “urban, funky hair,” as she claimed in the Daily Mail article. If some salon out there made this concept work, I’d be all for it.

    I do agree that in the West we have illusory ideas about individual freedom, perpetuated by our capitalist-entertainment complex, even within alt culture. For example, it saddens me how many ‘alt’ people can’t even stomach the word feminism. So, of course, we should look at ourselves before pointing fingers at others. Point taken. However, I still feel that Islam’s notions of gender division, as a whole, are much more problematic than those in the West. There are nuances, both here and there, that should not be overlooked. Thank you for pointing them out!

  22. Shay Says:

    @Jordan –
    i’d also think twice about the idea that we freaky types are more “free” than Muslim women who voluntarily veil themselves.

    I hope after thinking twice about it, you realized that you were right in the first place, and that we ‘freaky’ types (as you call it) are more free.
    If you want to read up on women’s lib in Muslim society, you have the whole wide intarwub at your disposal. In the meantime I suggest not to allow pluralism to blind you from your core liberal values. There is nothing ‘free’ in choosing to be a slave.

    Back to the point of the post – This is outrageous, I truly hope this case is kicked out of court.

  23. M Says:

    I hope this gets thrown out of court! It’s ridiculous and utterly offensive to people who are truly experiencing discrimination.

    If only Ms. Des Rosiers had conducted an interview in person… If only Ms. Noah would get her head checked and face reality.

    And, um… I just wanted to make a little correction to a comment above… that’s Māori not Mowry. =-).

  24. D Says:

    Two things.

    One: I really dislike the headdress. Me vs religion.

    Two: any person who’s met a conservative muslim woman at home – sans headdress – will know that their hair is usually extremely well cut and well cared for. Meaning that having a conservative muslim hairderesser is good biz (if a room without windows, of course).

    Oh and a 3rd me vs silly lawsuits – happy I live where I do.

  25. ps Says:

    I don’t know, it actually kind of annoys me that a business that is run and staffed by non-mainstream types would not hire someone because of a fashion choice like a headscarf and not on her skills.
    It may be that Bushra Noah actually encountered a lot of prior discrimination and felt some relief when she found a place willing to hire a hairdresser with neon colored hair with bits of metal and plastic dangling from it.
    It is not inconceivable that not understanding the “culture” she assumed that she was applying for work at a place where all forms of self-expression was encouraged and without any code of dress.
    It might well be that after a trial period of working on customers requesting much less extreme hairstyles than the ones of her fellow employees,hairstyles within her skill set, she was shocked when she was let go over her choice of self-expression when another person covered in tattoos with hair like some sort of airbrushed polycarbon was acceptable.

  26. Milly von Hilly Says:

    Although you bring up an interesting point, that many Noah defenders point out, the fact that this is a hair salon, and a very small business, accounts for a lot in this case. When your new business thrives on a walk-in customer base it’s a very delicate and undemocratic situation. Noah may as well be suing women who, when given the choice of a styled beautician and a hijabi-wearer, opt for the latter.
    A woman in hijab can be alternative and stylish, and could use the head-scarf to her advantage when applying to work in a shop in Camden, or a comic book store. But in a hair salon, unless there are many stylists on staff to paint a broader picture of the sort of hair-cut you can get there, she needs to oblige in the removal of the headgear. That, in my view, is not an unreasonable request.
    If she weren’t suing Des Rosiers, I would have sympathy for her. After all, her hands are capable, and in theory that is all that should matter. But unless the government wants to intervene and offer subsidies to small beauty businesses to hire women who refuse to show their hair (by choice) for the business they lose, then they need to stay out of Des Rosiers’ pockets.

  27. Lauren Says:

    If this was a salon in NY, I’d be going there in a heartbeat. A) Because they look like fun and B) because they probably will need the business. Even if they win the case, aren’t they still paying for lawyers or something? Even if they aren’t, this is still going to impact their business somehow.

  28. Tequila Says:

    “…A woman in hijab can be alternative and stylish, and could use the head-scarf to her advantage…”

    This is the root of the problem though (bad pun not 100% intended) in that the line between religion and personal lifestyle is being blurred far too much. More so by those who claim themselves to be “devout”. Fact is Bushra Noah could claim anything in the workplace conflicts with her religion at some point and use it as leverage against an employer. In this case simply not being hired left enough open legally that she could claim it as religious discrimination….talk about legal leeway.

    Unless one can legally operate personal lifestyle choices from religious views…people like Bushra Noah of any faith will continue to effectively abuse the freedoms of others.

    This woman is no fool..she knew the realities of the modern world and the limitations her personal choice to wear a headdress would cause. She’s not the first to complain about it and will not be the last…but the victimization she’s trying to portray is what bothers me the most since those with much harsher agendas use cases like this to build their platforms on…

    The Religious Right in the U.S. was born from little cases like this and the whole “Silent Majority” of the late 60’s…doesn’t take a genius to see politically ambitious men and women are willing to use a fast growing faith like Islam the same way so many in the U.S. used Christianity for…the next 20 years are gonna be FUN!