RIYADH/DUBAI: Princess Nourah Al-Faisal, Saudi founder of Paris-based fine jewelry label Nuun Jewels, took to social media this week to share an exchange between her team and French newspaper Les Echos, who, according to the designer, refused to run a portrait of her because she was wearing a hijab in the image.
“As a Saudi female jewelry designer working in Europe there have been times when I have come up against all kinds of discrimination,” she wrote in a lengthy Instagram post shared on her personal account. “Something happened today that I feel I cannot let pass,” she added.
The designer went on to detail the incident, stating that the professional headshots she provided to illustrate an interview set to run in the magazine were the subject of much furor.
As a Saudi female jewelry designer working in Europe there have been times when I have come up against all kinds of discrimination. I have found that the best policy is to work hard and let my success speak for itself. For the most part this has served me well, however, something happened today that I feel I cannot let pass. Let me start by saying that in no way do I believe that the behavior I described represents French culture. over the years I have come to consider my friends and the people I work with in France as family. I have also found support in the French media who have accepted me as one of their own. NUUN was approached by Les Echos, and asked to submit images of some of my work for an article on jewelers. They also requested an image of me which we supplied. , they then came back to us with a request for more images, so we gave them access to the file that contained several of my professional headshots. This morning we were sent a message through the coordinating PR agency explaining that the images shared did not CONFORM to the images of the other designers and that unless we were prepared to share an image without a HIJAB, they would not be using NUUN JEWELS in their article. I am not surprised that this sort of overt discrimination exists in the world, but from a supposedly liberal media outlet it is shocking. As a Muslim woman I am proud of my religion and my culture , i have always tried to represent my culture to the best of my ability. Discrimination is insidious and ingrained in many institutions all over the world and we must expose it wherever we find it. Today I found it in LES ECHOS. On a final note, I would like to just say that what I have found most disturbing is the ease with which this request was made with no thought of right or wrong. Would they have requested that a Hasidic woman to remove her wig because no one else is wearing one? What then is the difference? Why is one culture and religion valued while another is dismissed? Why do they think this behavior acceptable and why do they not fear ramifications? This tells me that this is acceptable behavior in their world, but I am here to say it is not nor will it ever be
According to the designer’s Instagram post, “we were sent a message through the coordinating PR agency explaining that the images shared did not conform to the images of the other designers and that unless we were prepared to share an image without a hijab, they would not be using Nuun Jewels in their article.”
The designer spoke to Arab News to share her disappointment.
“I highlighted this incident because we can’t fight these behaviors by keeping quiet and silent. Rasicm and discrimination is everywhere around the world. It’s something we must address… as a society, we have to keep talking about it.”
Even though the incident occurred with a French publication, the designer wants to stress that it is in no way a representation of French people or the country, making sure to point out, “My French friends and coworkers have all sent me messages saying this is not acceptable.”
Indeed, many users took to Al-Faisal’s comment section to write heartfelt messages of support and denounce Islamophobia and discrimination.
She has also received much support from people all over the world following the incident, and remains hopeful despite her experience with discrimination as a hijab-wearing woman. “I’m an internal optimist,” she mused. “I fully believe that humanity is wondrous at its core.”
“When it comes to my work I’ve always wanted to be judged by my craft. Look at the work, judge me on that and if you don’t like it, it’s fine. But don’t dismiss my work for a presumption,” she said.
Can such behavior be abolished? Al-Faisal believes so. “Racism is a taught behavior,” she stated. “You can unteach it."