A British stewardess, Lisa Ashton, was sacked when she refused to fly to Suadi Arabia after being told she’d have to walk behind her male colleagues and wear the traditional black robe, an abaya.
Saudi experts and companies that recruit women to work in the country say it is a “myth” that western women are required to walk behind men. There is no requirement for them to wear the abaya in public, though many do.
Earlier this year an employment tribunal in Manchester ruled that BMI was justified in imposing “rules of a different culture” on staff and cleared it of sexual discrimination. Ashton has consulted Liberty, the human rights organisation, and may seek a judicial review of the decision.
What you do when your beliefs clash with those which are acceptable in another country isn’t always simple but if this is reported correctly it does appear the airline was asking more of its employees than would be expected in Saudi Arabia.
The idea of any individual or group of people being required to walk behind another offends me and I struggle with the whole concept of the cover-all clothing which some Muslim women are expected to wear.
Some say it’s their choice but I wonder if it’s a free choice.
Fears of terrorism have declined a bit, but if there was another mass attack such as the September 9th ones in the USA or the bus and underground bombings in London authorities might look again at the security implications of voluminous robes.
That’s what put an end to the women of Vejer de la Frontera wearing the cobijaba.
It was common of women of the village to wear this until the Civil War when suspicion that men were disguising themselves as women by wearing the all-concealing black robe and hiding arms under it led to it being banned.
P.S. Stargazer has a related post on religion and gender equality at the Hand Mirror.