Just over a year ago, Bushra Noah applied for a job as a junior hairstylist at a funky salon in London's King's Cross. The interview lasted less than ten minutes. The owner, Sarah Desrosiers, was unimpressed that Miss Noah was unwilling to remove her Muslim headscarf when working.
As far as she was concerned, the staff at Wedge hair salon were advertisements for the shop, and if one of them covered their head completely it would send out the wrong message to potential customers. The decision was tough on Miss Noah, who had previously worked as a junior in a salon before leaving Britain to get married in Syria in 2006.
But Ms Desrosiers could never have predicted the impact of her decision not to offer the girl a job that day. The unsuccessful applicant sued her for religious discrimination, seeking £34,000 in damages. This week, Miss Noah was awarded £4,000 for "injury to feelings" and is working as a shop assistant while studying travel and tourism at college. Ms Desrosiers reckons she has lost £40,000 in income while fighting the case. Is this political correctness gone mad? Are hurt feelings just part and parcel of not getting the job you desperately wanted?
This is a modern story of two single-minded, highly principled young women. Ms Desrosiers, 32, started as a junior at 17, just like Miss Noah, sweeping the floor where she worked, practising on friends and fellow staff. Over the years, she had come up with a business plan and eventually invested £5,000 of her hard-earned savings to secure a lease on premises in an up-and-coming area near King's Cross, offering adventurous hairstyles to a local clientele. Miss Noah obviously had ambitions as a hairdresser too. Over the years, she unsuccessfully applied for jobs in 25 salons.
But was Ms Desrosiers guilty of Islamaphobia, or too brutally honest for her own good? Unfortunately, the laws relating to discrimination are so woolly, so open to misinterpretation, that this ruling neither helps devout youngsters like Miss Noah get the jobs they want, nor does it protect employers like Ms Desrosiers, who claim they can be exploited in the name of religion.
Ms Desrosiers' defence was that how her staff did their own hair was integral to the atmosphere in her salon and to the business of attracting customers. Of course this is spurious rubbish. My own hairdresser shaves his head, so I certainly don't get any ideas there! Look at top hairdressers (generally male) like Nicky Clarke (weird horse's mane haircut I wouldn't be seen dead in), Sam McKnight (not very much hair at all) and colourist to the stars Daniel Galvin (boring layer cut). Great hairdressers exude confidence – and that's about it.
Visiting a salon for the first time, I ask for the youngest person to do my hair. At least they'll have an inkling of what is happening at street-level. The person I want fiddling around with my hair is not some bitchy, middle-aged queen who thinks I'm too old and too chubby to bother with. If Miss Noah was the youngest person at Wedge, I would probably have been perfectly happy for her to attend to my needs.
Ms Desrosiers' other claim – that she could not understand why anyone would be working in hairdressing if they were against the display of women's hair on religious grounds – has much more validity.
The case should never have come to court. Ms Desrosiers was too honest to Miss Noah and has paid a high price. On the other hand, I don't believe that hurt feelings are worth 4p, let alone £4,000.
Love match sealed with a metal kiss
Great news for men who are sick of women nagging. Sega toys in Japan has come up with a robot that doesn't answer back. The Eternal Maiden Actualisation robot is only 15 inches tall, but put your head close to hers and she'll kiss you.
This maiden might have a plastic head that looks a little like a pod, but she has a big bust and can walk, hand out your business card and even dance – and she won't criticise your lack of skills as a lover either. The manufacturers have pitched the device at lonely men but £85 is a lot of money to spend to be nuzzled by a dummy. They expect to sell 10,000 robot maidens in the first year. Are men really that gullible?
* It has been wet all week and the only thing thriving in the garden is potatoes, so I have planted a couple of cucumbers. Every vegetable I grow seems beautiful to me, but bureaucrats in Brussels have long been the scourge of market gardeners with their insane rules, which not only restricted the varieties that could be legally sold (consigning many historic potatoes and apples to the scrapheap of horticultural history) but also banned specimens which did not meet stringent guidelines relating to dimensions. Bananas and cucumbers could not have what was deemed an "abnormal" curve, for example.
It is a good thing we don't have to apply these rules to potential lovers. Now, a relaxation of the rules means that knobbly fruit and veg can be sold, as long as they are labelled "for cooking". Class one cucumbers can only bend 0.4 inch for every four inches in length, but class two cucumbers can bend twice as much.
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