Monday, April 19, 2010

Muslim's in America

Several weeks ago a post was written about the banning of Muslim burqas in France, which we have discussed several times since. It never crossed my mind that such a religious discrimination would ever be imposed in the United States. This article discusses the on going issues facing Muslim women desiring to wear hijab, religious headscarves. Hani Khan, a young woman who worked at Hollister (owned by Abercrombie & Fitch), was asked one day to remove her hijab. When she refused, she was fired a week later. Khan filed a religious discrimination suit against the company only to discover she is one of many. Muslim women have been singled out in airports, banks, and at the Division of Motor Vehicles due to the ability to easily identify them by religious garments. A 16-year-old girl in Delaware now has a license depicting her crying because of how upset it made her to be asked to remove her hijab. Another woman, Nadia Hassan, was subject to a full-body search at the airport due to refusal of removing her hijab although she did not set off the metal detector.

Many different issues are brought up in this article. Should companies be allowed to portray a certain image to their customers? Are hijabs a threat to national security, either pictured in one’s license photo or worn on a plane? Does our country’s fear of terrorism give us the right to impose additional security on Muslim’s?

Regarding Khan and her suit against Abercrombie & Fitch, the company offered her a job if she agreed to stay in the stockroom, out of view. She refused claiming, “The company is trying to portray this all-American look. Well. I’m American.” I think Khan makes a wonderful point here. America is the mixing pot; our country is special because of its multiple cultures and the freedom of expression. I think it is unconstitutional for a company to be allowed to filter its employees by their religion and the accessories that accompany it. I don’t think a hijab hinders one’s ability to perform at a job in a clothing store, which I think should be the company’s only concern. The free exercise of religion should only be dismissed if there is a compelling state interest, which I hope the court agrees the image of Hollister is not. If the military, as discussed in previous blogs, can make exceptions for religious head coverings if they are not detrimental to performance, I believe a clothing store should have to.

In the original ruling of Wisconsin v. Yoder, the judge ruled that mandating the pledge of allegiance was constitutional due to the context of World War II. Given the context of the current war and recent terrorism attacks, I am sympathetic to the country’s concern regarding identification and traveling. The clerk at the Delaware Motor Vehicles Department was actually corrected, and the girl was told that there was no need for her to remove her hijab. I agree, that it is unnecessary to force women to do something interfering with their religion, but I also agree that it is important to insure the women are clearly identifiable in their pictures. If the hijab is covering a woman’s face it must be modified due to the fear of identity theft interfering with national security.

As was brought up in discussing the blog regarding Muslims opposition to x-ray airport security, this is a very big issue. Muslim’s are, unfortunately, associated with terrorism. They are the only group of people that we have had such devastating recent issues with and whom our troops are fighting to protect us against. But this does not take away the constitutional rights of Muslim Americans. Under the U.S Constitution a Christian American should be viewed no differently than a Muslim American. It is unfortunate that the hijab has become a target on Muslim women, but they are merely exercising their freedom of religion. To constantly mentally associate the symbol negatively is unfair. Social profiling is not provable, so although it is unconstitutional it is inevitable. We should not be able to employ additional security upon Muslim’s with no probable cause, but our fear of national security will over ride the rights of the people. The right to fair employment though is provable and unconstitutional. Stores like Hollister and Abercrombie & Fitch are sending a bad image to youth saying that expressing a non-Judeo-Christian religion makes you not American. We must first tackle this terrible misconception before there is any hope for complete protection for religious minorities.

9 comments:

Abby P said...

This case, regarding the firing of a Muslim woman because of her refusal to remove her hijab, was very interesting. As the post identifies, when we discussed the potential burqa ban in France, we asserted that such a proposal in the United States would be instantly rejected, due to the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment. However, this current case, although it does not deal with an actual law, does show that even in the United States, Muslims are discriminated against. The woman's firing was completely unnecessary; and was an egregious violation of her religious free exercise. In regard to airport scans and license pictures, however, there exists more of a compelling state interest. In a license picture one's face must be identifiable, as a matter of security. Also in regard to airport scans, I do not believe that Muslims should be singled out; however, if everyone must submit to the scans, then I believe Muslims should have to as well. All three of these cases, however, do show that there exists a balancing act between the interests of the state and the free exercise of individuals.

Abby P said...

This case, regarding the firing of a Muslim woman because of her refusal to remove her hijab, was very interesting. As the post identifies, when we discussed the potential burqa ban in France, we asserted that such a proposal in the United States would be instantly rejected, due to the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment. However, this current case, although it does not deal with an actual law, does show that even in the United States, Muslims are discriminated against. The woman's firing was completely unnecessary; and was an egregious violation of her religious free exercise. In regard to airport scans and license pictures, however, there exists more of a compelling state interest. In a license picture one's face must be identifiable, as a matter of security. Also in regard to airport scans, I do not believe that Muslims should be singled out; however, if everyone must submit to the scans, then I believe Muslims should have to as well. All three of these cases, however, do show that there exists a balancing act between the interests of the state and the free exercise of individuals.

OldPantherGSU said...

Yes, we do need to see a person’s face to match them with an official photo identification. Yes, passports and other identification do need a photo of the person, not a picture of a garment. What good is identification if there are not specific characteristics that distinguish one person from another person. Or should we simply ask if the person if they are a terrorist. The honest person will answer correctly, but the terrorist will also claim to be honest. So, therefore no photo identification, because it may upset a person to have a photo taken and seen. So all security will be eliminated. Think of the cost saving and the hurt feelings that are saved. So what if a few hundred people are killed in the process, at least no one’s feelings were hurt and they were not made to cry.

If a person wants to work in a business that lets them hide there appearance, then start a business and run it like you want. If you find that customers do not like to shop where employees hide they appearance then you might change your business plan, but as owner, it will be your choice.

Alicia_W said...

I agree with Jessica's post and Abby's comment. This case is a perfect example of the blurred boundaries between a person's free exercise and a national state interest.I do not think it was justified to fire her because of her religious belief of wearing a burqa. On the other hand, I do believe it is justified to require that all religious material that covers the face be removed when receiving official documents. It needs to be made clear that there is a separation between these two instances in order to prevent the removal requirement from being viewed as a limitation on an individual's free exercise. However, it is difficult to say that a person should not be discriminated against in the job market because of the precedent that was set Wisconsin v.Yoder, which Jessica pointed out in her post. Unless one wants to argue that the military is not included within the job market. Something needs to be done to prevent religious discrimination and protect free exercise but not to the extent in which national security/welfare is put in jeopardy.

LaurenL said...

While I agree that we do indeed need to see a person's entire face in order to identify them via photo identification, I do certainly not agree with the comment that if a person is dissatisfied with the conditions of her working environment then she should just start her own business. I find that suggestion both ignorant and impractical, as it is pretty unlikely that a 19 year old college woman would be able to open her own business. I agree with Jessica's comment that Hollister should not be allowed to "filter its employees by their religion and the accessories that accompany it." Wearing a hijab while working in a clothing store is not a matter of national security, so I hope that these companies will be held accountable for their actions of discrimination.

David I said...

Like many of the above comments, I agree with Jessica's statement that the United States is a multicultural and multi-religious country where citizens are allowed to proudly practice their own religion. In this case, the wearing of a burqa does not hinder this employees ability to perform adequate work. Like Lauren states, a person should not be forced to start their own business to have their religious freedoms protected. The fact that Abercrombie would only allow this employee to work in the back room of the store seems to clearly be in violation of the free exercise clause. This employee has the right to wear a burqa while working in a business setting.

Gavin C. said...

While the discrimination against Muslims, male and female, in America is a particularly nasty blotch on our collective face, whether this particular case is one of religious discrimination remains to be seen. Certainly there are equal-opportunity laws in the US, which prohibit discrimination on religious, racial and gender grounds, but the question of this being a religious discrimination case depends on the letter and intent of Hollister’s policy. If the policy bans any type of headgear, it would seem not to promote religious discrimination; however, if the policy bans certain types of headgear, such as turbans, yarmulkes or hijabs, it would certainly be a violation of equal-opportunity laws. It is possible that the State or Federal Legislature could pass a law requiring companies that have “no hat” policies to make an exception, but such laws could be construed as violating the Establishment Clause by making religion a special case and promoting it.

Shannon H. said...

I agree with most of the others that while there is a legitimate security need to have a Muslim woman remove her hijab for her driver’s license photo or to check against her passport (although I would like to see a policy that allows her to be checked by a woman as long as one is available), there is no legal reason for a store such as Hollister to discriminate so blatantly against a Muslim employee. Federal law prohibits workplaces from discriminating against their employees based on religion (as well as race, creed, gender, etc.) and thus I feel that Ms. Kahn has a very strong case against Hollister.

nedwards13 said...

This case reminds me of something else that seems to be in the news more and more everyday. In regards to the new law that the State of Arizona would like to implement. In the end the only thing that I have to say about cases such as this one and the Arizona one is RACIAL PROFILING. I had the converstion with my mother the other day and if I am in fact stopped when I come out of a Wal*mart and am asked to show my I.D. without motive all cain will break loose. I am Honduran, born in Honduras and I look ethnic. My name is 100% British because I was adopted by a Honduran mother and a British father. I have been a naturalized citizen of this country since I was two years of age and have been working and paying taxes via payroll since the age of fifteen. I feel that I have the right to refuse to give any proof not of residency but of RACE. This is so wrong on so many different levels that I cannot even begin to explain. It goes back to the philosophy that yes, one can ruin it for all. This should be put into action at an elementary school playground where a teacher asks the children to come in early because one was throwing sand. This is not a philosophy that should be acted upon in relation to race and the inate rights and privacey of the American people.