SYDNEY - A young Muslim woman was fired from her job at a pharmacy in Sydney’s east after refusing to remove her traditional headdress while she was at work, a parliamentary inquiry heard today, writes Helena Burke in the Australian newspaper.

Speaking on behalf of the Australian National Imams Council, Bilal Rauf told the inquiry the young pharmacist was instructed not to wear her hijab at work because it would offend the residents of the Eastern Sydney suburb where the pharmacy was located.

“A female who was a pharmacist, during the course of her employment, decided to wear the hijab,” Mr Rauf said. “This was at a place in the eastern suburbs and she was told in very clear terms: ‘look, around here, people don't like this thing, so if you want to wear the hijab that's a matter for you, but I won't be able to keep you on here’.”

Mr Rauf said the woman refused to stop wearing her hijab at work and was subsequently forced by her boss to resign from her position. “She ended up losing her employment because she had no choice or ability to do anything about that,” he said. The shocking story comes amid hot debate in Australia about the need for a Religious Discrimination Bill.

While some argue that the bill will simply offer protection from discriminatory acts like those suffered by the Muslim pharmacist, others hold grave concerns that the bill will provide a loophole for people and organisations of faith to discriminate against LGBTQ+ people.

Mr Rauf said the National Imams Council – Australia’s largest Muslim advocacy organisation – supported the proposed bill. “So many other attributes relating to a person‘s identity are protected, acknowledged and recognised,” he said.

“With Australian Muslims, so often they are identifiable by what many women, for instance, choose to wear their hijab, men grow the beard, or they attend congregational prayers.

“It's an extraordinary position that that part of their identity, not only is not protected, but not acknowledged at law.”