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Muslim woman suffered discrimination on multiple grounds

Muslim woman suffered discrimination on multiple
grounds

In Khan v Ghafoor t/a Go Go Real Estate, an employment tribunal held that a female, non-practising Muslim employee, dismissed for refusing to wear a headscarf to work, suffered direct discrimination on grounds of her lack of belief that her religion required her to do so and her sex.
 
Miss Khan, a British Pakistani, identifies with the Muslim religion but is non-practicing, i.e. does not attend Mosque, pray regularly or cover her hair. Her boss Mr Ghafoor, is a practising Muslim. Mr Ghafoor asked Miss Khan on two occasions whether she would wear a headscarf to work as it would make him feel better about having a Muslim woman working in the office. Mr Ghafoor subsequently dismissed Miss Khan, explaining although she had not done anything wrong at work, friends had gossiped about how westernised she looked because she did not wear a headscarf and were implying that she was not respectable. 
 
The tribunal upheld Miss Khan’s claim of direct sex discrimination. Miss Khan’s sex played a part in the decision to dismiss her for failing to cover her hair. The covering of hair is an expression of female modesty, and Mr Ghafoor would not have treated a male employee in the same way. The tribunal also upheld her religious belief discrimination claim. Mr Ghafoor did not require his female, non-Muslim employees to cover their hair. Requiring Miss Khan to comply was because she identified herself with the Muslim faith. Her refusal to wear the headscarf, was due to her lack of belief that her religion required her to do so.  

December 2010

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