I was offered a job today. (Never mind that I already have one, that ruins the story.) Anyway, a friend of mine informed me that a foreign NGO was looking for administrative personnel, and she knew the woman (we’ll call her Ms. X) who was hiring. The position came with room for promotion, a dynamic and challenging work environment and, most importantly, a very good salary- 35,000 rupees just to start.
With a 6,000 rupee bonus every three months.
But the job came with a catch. Since the position was in a foreign NGO dedicated to establishing freedom and democracy in Pakistan (this is a nice name for regime change) it would require a bit of confidentiality on my part. But that wasn’t the catch though. Nope, the catch was: I couldn’t wear my scarf.
(This is where Sensei’s eyebrow raised in polite amusement.)
I asked how my scarf could possibly interfere with my ability to work. My friend said she didn’t know, but was told that the job required a lot of going out and meeting and greeting people, and that somehow it didn’t seem to go with the job. She I had a good laugh though, over the irony of said NGO (struggling to establish freedom and democracy and liberty and justice for all) refusing to allow a scarf in the workplace. This, dear blogistanis, is good old-fashioned irony, and please make note of it.
I would like to report Ms. X to the Society for Prevention of Cruelty Against Hijabis (if any), or maybe the Anti-Hypocrisy Squad or anyone who can see that a piece of cloth on my head doesn’t impair my work ethic, my social skills, or my brain. Not unless I’ve pinned it too tight or poked one of the straight pins into my scalp. Which I usually don’t. But I sometimes do. But anyway.
I remember this Ms. X, I met her last year at a national-day party, and as we stood around the tables shmoozing, the discussion inevitably came to my scarf, and what modesty meant, and what the whole point was. I came away from that conversation with the distinct impression that Ms. X did not like my scarf, not in the least.
I wish I could meet her again, and tell her that I already have a job (even in spite of my scarf!) and point to my head and clarify that it does not actually cut off blood circulation up there. I would like to show her how a little extra effort can put people at ease and help dispel any awkwardness they may feel when meeting you for the first time. This extra effort can even make valuable friends, because the discussions begun by the conversation piece on your head (ie: scarf) are a deeper level of interaction than you would ordinarily have with a colleague or business contact.
I would also like to ask Ms. X whether she actually expected me to accept the position in exchange for giving up my scarf. Yeah, the salary was good, but you’d have to tack on a helluva lot more zeros before I would even jokingly consider trading my morals for it. I don’t want to be melodramatic and talk about selling my soul for a monthly salary, but I do want to say that this is the equivalent of Darth Vader telling Luke to join the dark side.
Ok, so that analogy wasn’t melodramatic, just dorky. You know what I mean though. I’m not going to sell my modesty. God forbid that I should ever have to trade it for my life, or worse- have it taken from me, but I would not give it up freely. Not for any price. Some people sneer that hijab takes away a woman’s self-worth, but you know what? Right now I have 35,000 rupees a month worth of it.
With a 6,000 rupee bonus every three months. :p