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Air France cocks up secularism

Wednesday 6 April 2016, by siawi3


Cole Forster

Apr 6, 2016

With Air France set to resume service to Tehran this month, the airline’s stewardesses are in a fury over a decree by chief executives that they must veil themselves upon touching down in the Islamic Republic. The appropriate unions have announced their solidarity with les hôtesses de l’air and demanded that the policy be reversed. Forcing its employees to cover their hair is a bizarre protocol for Air France to implement, especially given the intensely secular nature of public life in the hexagon.

Obviously the stewardesses should use prudence and caution when in Iran, which ordinarily means donning a loose rousari. However, requiring the headscarf as part of the regulation uniform for these flights is ludicrous. At the very least the employees must be afforded the choice to opt out of this particular route at no cost to their pay or career ambitions. The individual liberty of Air France’s female employees cannot be humiliated because theocrats like Khamenei are incapable of conducting themselves normally in the presence of a woman’s uncovered locks.

The scarf isn’t the only degradation France’s flag-carrier is prepared to subject its stewardesses to. No, Air France also noted in its policy that female employees who normally have the choice between pant or skirt uniforms will be restricted to the former and forced to wear a longer jacket than usual. The clothing stipulations might sound trivial, but they represent a very grave trespass on the secularism for which France is known.

Counter-arguments have suggested that this is business as usual for Air France in the Middle East, (the company already requires its stewardesses to adopt more modest uniforms for flights to Saudi Arabia) but there is something insidious about this line of thought. Just because covering one’s head as a woman is a legal obligation within the borders of the Islamic Republic, there is no reason that French citizens serving as transport personnel need to be affected by such medieval misogyny. What will the clerics do if the stewardesses refuse to make their tarmac descents fully scarfed? What will the Élysée do if there is any trouble about this situation? I know what should happen. Air France should axe their insane conditions and let their employees determine if capitulation to religious zealotry is really the French way.