Reporting by Ayub Khan
TORONTO, ONTARIO -– Muslim women in Toronto who wear hijab, or the traditional Islamic headscarf, face discrimination when applying for job.
In a report released Monday, December 16, researcher Judy Vashti Persad, who has been studying the trends for the past one year, said that it is the first time that this kind of discrimination has been documented.
Persad's survey consisted of three teams of two women who were sent out to apply for jobs at 16 different employers in Toronto, including fast-food outlets, retail stores, garment and general factories. All pairs of women were matched in age, skin color, Canadian work experience, accent, mannerisms and identical resumes.
The study found that in most cases the hijab-clad women were treated differently.
Those without a hijab were immediately asked to fill out an application in 62.5 percent of the instances, compared with 12.5 percent for their hijab-wearing counterparts.
In some cases the women with the hijab were told that there were simply no job application forms available, when another without the hijab had just concluded the application process minutes earlier.
Twenty-nine of the 32 Muslim women surveyed said that they have had an employer make a reference to their hijab while applying for job in the manufacturing, sales and services sectors.
Twenty-one of them have been asked if they could take the head cover off and one-third has at least once been told flatly, "You must take it off if you want a job."
"Wearing a hijab is not a fashion statement; it is part of the cultural identity of these women. Discrimination is not to be accommodated, but eliminated," said Persad, a non-Muslim social worker from Trinidad.
The study was funded with a $100,000 grant from the federal government and the city.
According to conservative estimates, Muslims form 1 percent of the total Canadian population.