KUALA LUMPUR, Aug 8 — Putrajaya’s introduction of a Shariah-compliant dress code is meant to protect Muslim women who don headscarves from workplace discrimination, Datuk Mujahid Yusof Rawa said today.
The minister in the Prime Minister’s Department in charge of Islamic affairs said his department has received many complaints from Muslim women working in the airlines and in the service industry who claim their employers prevented them from wearing the tudung, citing their respective company code of conduct as excuses.
“There are many cases of Muslim women being discriminated. We hear comments from stewardesses and hoteliers who are not supposed to wear certain clothing that they wish, just because it is against the company’s code of conduct.
“I am not taking sides but as the government, I have to also hear out and be fair to people who are being discriminated in such forms,” he told reporters at Parliament here.
On Monday, Mujahid announced in the Dewan Rakyat that the government is working on a dress code for Muslim women in the private sector.
However, his announcement drew criticism from certain groups, including the Women’s Aid Organisation (WAO), which said the government should not be policing what women wear.
Mujahid said today that WAO’s reaction is probably spurred by the use of the word “Shariah” in the guideline.
“Maybe the word ‘Shariah-compliant’ sent shivers down the spines of some people but let’s just say it is a dress code that is culturally and ethically right.
“We are not being controlling. If a woman refuses to follow the guideline, fine, it is their choice but at least the guideline is in place,” he said.
The dress code is an initiative of the Human Resources Ministry. It has formed a special panel to deliberate on the guideline, which is expected to be finalised by year’s end.