Barbados: Hijab, youth unemployment among election issues for Muslims

Barbados Nation:-  A MUSLIM WOMAN’S RIGHT to wear the head scarf (hijab) when taking pictures for identification is one of the key issues the community wants addressed as the 2018 General Election looms over Barbados.

Secretary of the Barbados Muslim Association, Suleiman Bulbulia, told the DAILY NATION that citizenship for some of its members, and a multi-faith prayer hall at Grantley Adams International Airport, were also of special interest.

He was speaking on the sidelines of a presentation of water coolers to the Brandford Taitt Polyclinic, three secondary and four primary schools at TMR Sales & Service yesterday.

In December 2015, the SUNDAY SUN reported that a Muslim woman was contemplating taking Government to court after being asked to remove her hijab when she visited the Electoral & Boundaries Commission for an identification card. The woman was informed the card would not be issued if she did not show her full face.

“We recognise international standards do allow for women, for religious purposes, to continue to wear the scarf. And so we are trying to have that on the agenda for the political parties and for the new Government coming in to look at as a policy,” Bulbulia said.

They have written to Prime Minister Freundel Stuart and Minister of Ecclesiastical Affairs Steve Blackett seeking clarification on the issue.

At the time, Blackett said there were rules, regulations and laws governing the photographs.

“I can’t see how religion can dictate what must be followed outside of the four corners of these rules and regulations,” Blackett had said.

Members of the Rastafarian order of Nyabinghi were also seeking legal advice on the issue, as their women are also required to cover their heads while in public.

A number of European countries have banned the scarf outright, while others have guidelines on how it is to be worn for identification purposes.

Meanwhile, Bulbulia said some of the association’s members who had the right to citizenship, either through migration or marriage, were seeking to have the process speeded up. Applications had been submitted but “but it is taking a long time”.

On the issue of the multi-faith hall at the airport, he said both locals travelling and visiting Muslims would like the space so they could pray comfortably when required to do so. Muslims pray five times a day.

The secretary said there were also challenges of unemployment within their young community.

“Traditionally, we have had family-owned businesses but that is changing as the economic climate changes. A lot of the younger generation are looking for employment and may not go into the family business, or that is already subscribed to,” Bulbulia said.

They have traditionally been salesmen either in vehicles or stores, mainly in Swan Street, The City, supplying Barbadians with a range of household items.