Scotland: No men allowed in ‘halal’ hair salon.

From Herald Scotland, courtesy TROP

Now it’s halal hairdressing: a snip for Scottish Muslims

  • Mahida Iqbal
  • Mahida Iqbal struck on the idea of a ladies-only salon after offering an at-home hair service to her Muslim customers.

Exclusive: Helen McArdle

24 Oct 2010

With its frosted windows, CCTV cameras, and tightly monitored security entrance, it is going to be one of Aberdeen’s most secretive business enterprises.

So, you could be forgiven for wondering if the shop has something to hide.

Well, it does – its customers. Or rather it is the customers who want to remain hidden. For this is Scotland’s first ‘halal hairdressers’ – a beauty salon which conforms to the strict rules of Islam; a place were Muslim women who wear the veil or headscarf can be seen uncovered without the risk of the gaze of men.

Discreet Creative Hairdressing, scheduled to open in three weeks, is the brainchild of 21-year-old Mahida Iqbal and her husband of nine months, Fueb Mieh.

The salon will be a ‘man-free zone’. The frosted windows will stop any inquisitive men passing by from gawping at the clients. No-one can get in without passing through a secure buzzer entry system with CCTV. All this means that the Muslim ladies who have come for a new hair-do can remove their headscarves safe in the knowledge that only other women can see them.

Our salon is completely discreet, completely hidden from the public, from men, whereas the salons here, men still walk past and they can still see in or come in.

Mahida Iqbal

Iqbal hit on the idea when she began wearing the headscarf for the first time last year, although she credits her husband – a fellow entrepreneur who runs Indian takeaways – for coming up with the proposal.

“At first I was just going to open up a hair salon that was going to be ladies-only,” said Iqbal. “But then my husband suggested I should target the Muslim community because there isn’t a salon yet in Aberdeen that provides these services.” She spoke to Muslim women who wanted a ‘halal’ service, but had nowhere to go. “So I used to go and do homers for the ladies, or they would come to my house.”

While there are other salons in Scotland which offer a ladies-only service, Iqbal wants to offer something geared to the needs of the Muslim community.

She said: “There are hair salons in Glasgow that are ladies-only, but not like our salon. Our salon is completely discreet, completely hidden from the public, from men, whereas the salons here, men still walk past and they can still see in or come in. Ours has a buzzer entry system, and we’ve got CCTV so that we can see who’s actually approaching the door.

“We can allow people in and if there is a man there then we won’t let him in. And there’s the window frosting as well. There’s a big population in Aberdeen that are Muslim. There’s Pakistani, Bengali, African, black American, Arabic – there’s a very large Muslim community. And me myself, attending mosque and attending Muslim events, I’ve got to know a lot of the Muslim ladies, so I’m hoping to generate a lot of business by word of mouth.”

However, Iqbal is not content to stop at hair-styling alone. Her salon will be a haven to a whole range of the pampering needs for Muslim women, with a variety of specialist beauty techniques such as henna tattooing and facial threading – an ancient hair-removal technique – also on offer.

“We’ve got an African hair stylist because afro hair is different from European hair, so she’s going to be doing braiding and taking care of African clients. We’re going to have a make-up artist, a beautician, a nail technician, a henna artist, a threading specialist, and teeth whitening as well.”

“It is somewhere where customers can feel comfortable, feel pampered and relaxed, knowing that no-one is going to come in and disturb them,” Iqbal added. “Muslim husbands can feel relaxed knowing that their wife is safe, where no man is going to be able to see them, and then they can come home and show their beauty. Muslim clients have never experienced this ever. It’s a great feeling.”