CAIRO - A prominent leader of the Maltase Muslim community has urged the government to issue new rules to allow Muslim women don hijab at work, warning that banning the headscarf forces many females to stay at home.
Some ladies who wear the hijab do not apply for jobs because they worry they will be forced to remove it, Imam Mohammed Elsadi, the leader of the Maltese Muslim community, told Times of Malta.The hijab issue was raised at a recent meeting between the Muslim leader and Prime Minister Lawrence Gonzi.
Speaking to the PM, the imam urged the government to clearly state that women were allowed to wear the outfit in both public and private sectors.
These rules, if issued, would encourage better representation for Muslim women in work sectors, he argued.
The request follows a recent case in which two Muslim women working in non-medical jobs in Malta's health sector were forced to remove the hijab.
The imam also referred to Muslim women teaching in government schools who did not wear the garment at work.
I don't know if this is because they are forbidden to wear it, whether they remove it out of fear or whether they choose not to wear it, he said.
Trusting the public acceptance for the Muslim community, Elsadi said the Maltese public has always been very tolerant of Islamic dress.
We appreciate very much their attitude towards Muslim women, he said.
Islam sees hijab as an obligatory code of dress, not a religious symbol displaying one's affiliations.
As for the face veil, the majority of Muslim scholars believe that a woman is not obliged to cover her face or hands.
Scholars, however, believe that it is up to women to decide whether to take on the veil.
There is no official figures on the number of Muslim in Malta, an island country with a 400,000-strong population.
According to Wikipedia, the present-day Muslim community in Malta is a minority of around 6,000.There is one mosque, founded in 1978 by the World Islamic Call Society.