-Staff Writer-

(FinalCall.com) – America may profess religious freedom but if you are Muslim, it’s getting harder and harder to bear witness.

Hani Khan was fired from her job at Hollister and Co. a store in the San Francisco area owned by Abercrombie and Fitch, because she would not remove her hijab (hair covering). She filed a lawsuit last month in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California against the national chain.

“When I was asked to remove my scarf after being hired with it on, I was demoralized and felt unwanted,” said Ms. Khan. “Growing up in this country where the Bill of Rights guarantees freedom of religion, I have felt let down.”


After she was fired, Ms. Khan filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). In September 2010, they issued a determination that she was wrongfully terminated. Attempts to redress the matter failed in January 2011.

“When we first received Ms. Khan’s complaint, it was the explicitness of Abercrombie & Fitch’s discriminatory demands which concerned us. They were both egregious and illegal,” said Zahra Billoo, Executive Director of CAIR-SFBA, San Francisco Bay Area office of the Council on American-Islamic Relations.

“For an employer to, point-blank, require an employee to relinquish their religious practice is a violation of our cherished civil rights laws.”

Ms. Khan was fired from her job after working there for four months in 2009-2010. When she was hired, she was told her hijab would not be in conflict with the company’s “look policy” so long as she wore it in company colors.

Despite complying with this request, in February 2010 a District Manager and Corporate Human Resources Manager asked if she could remove her hijab while working. Ms. Khan was suspended and then terminated when she refused to comply with the request, and asserted her right to religious accommodation.

“Abercrombie & Fitch cannot hide behind a “Look Policy” to justify violating Ms. Khan’s civil rights. Their refusal to accommodate her wearing her hijab is not only unlawful, but un-American,” said Araceli Martinez-Olguin, a Legal Aid Society Staff Attorney.

“No worker should have to choose between their religion and a job.”

In a statement released by Abercrombie & Fitch, the company said they are “committed to providing equal employment opportunities to all individuals regardless of race or ethnicity. We comply with the law regarding reasonable religious accommodations.”

Abercrombie & Fitch believes the diversity in their stories exceeds the nation’s diversity and it is confident that a jury will find that it has complied with the law.

Ms. Khan’s lawsuit seeks among other remedies an order to bring the defendants into compliance with Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the California Fair Employment and Housing Act. The requested order would bar Abercrombie & Fitch from discriminating against current or potential employees for refusing to remove their religiously mandated headscarves.

Ms. Kahn said she’s received death threats since her story went public.

“They came in the form of emails and they were sent directly to the CAIR office, they weren’t personally sent to me,” Ms. Kahn told reporters. “They talked about decapitating my head and wrapping it around a pigskin and burying it.”

Related news:

Same hate, new target: Islam in U.S.   (FCN, 07-11-2011)