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Q&A: Disney intern Noor Abdallah on hijab and work

Photo courtesy of CAIR-LA

Noor Abdallah in her Disney uniform

The Muslim intern who fought Disney over her hijab, and won, is a second-generation University of Illinois senior, a psychology major and a native of the Chicago suburbs who “grew up on Disney movies.”

Noor Abdallah, 22, took the company to task this summer after arriving in Anaheim to begin an internship as a vacation planner. Upon arriving, she was informed that because she wears the traditional Islamic head scarf, known as hijab, she must take a job with less guest interaction. She was offered a stockroom job while a customized uniform was made, a wait that would take about five months.

Abdallah sought assistance from the Council on American-Islamic Relations after learning about Iman Boudial, a Moroccan immigrant and Disney worker who filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission against the company last month on similar grounds. Disney relented, allowing Abdallah to work in the vacation planner job. She has been working in hijab since earlier this month, wearing a blue head scarf with a beret-style hat.

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A Disney intern's uniform, with hijab

Photo courtesy of CAIR-LA

Noor Abdallah in her Disney uniform

A Disney intern who did battle with the company over her traditional Islamic religious head scarf, known as hijab, is at work in the job she was hired to do, and in a uniform adapted for her.

Noor Abdallah, 22, sought legal help after arriving from Illinois to begin work at the Anaheim resort. She had interviewed by phone for an internship as a Disney vacation planner, but upon arriving in California, she was informed that because of her hijab, she would instead have to take a stockroom job while a customized uniform was made.

Upon learning that she would have to wait five months for a custom uniform - the length of her internship - Abdallah sought assistance from the Council on American-Islamic Relations, a national Islamic civil liberties group with an office in Los Angeles. Within a week, Disney relented, allowing her to work in the vacation planner job with a uniform that includes a blue head scarf with a beret-style hat over it.

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Disney employee allowed to wear hijab, may set precedent for others

Photo by TK/Flickr (Creative Commons)

Two women in hijab at a Southern California picnic, June 2008

A decision by Disney to allow a female Muslim intern to wear a traditional religious head scarf, or hijab, at work could set a precedent for other Disney employees who make an argument to wear the head scarves as part of their work uniform.

According to the greater Los Angeles office of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, a national Islamic civil liberties organization, the decision involved a young woman from the Chicago area who had interviewed by phone for an internship job as a Disney vacation planner in Anaheim.

In a press release today, CAIR-LA stated that when the unidentified intern arrived in California, she was informed by her new employer that she would have to take a different position with limited guest interaction, a stockroom job, while a customized uniform was created for her. The wait for a customized uniform was five months, according to CAIR-LA, the length of her internship.

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Muslim employee files complaint against Disneyland, seek to wear hijab at work

hijab

Photo by IIOC Masjid Omar AlFarouk/Flickr (Creative Commons)


Two women in hijab at a Southern California picnic, June 2008


Learning about the First Amendment as she went about applying for U.S. citizenship inspired a young Muslim woman who works at Disneyland to challenge a company policy and wear her hijab to work.

Today, Imane Boudial filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, alleging she is not allowed to wear the traditional head scarf while on the job, according to 89.3 KPCC and other news reports. Boudial has worked at the Grand Californian Hotel's Storytellers Restaurant for more than two years. More from the KPCC story:

"As long as she's been there, she took off her hijab before she went to work because it's against Disney policy,'' said Leigh Shelton, a spokeswoman for Boudlal's union, Unite Here Local 11. "But more recently she's gone through some experiences that have enlightened her a little, and she wanted to challenge the policy because it's illegal and wrong.''

Several months ago, Boudlal, who is Arab, applied for U.S. citizenship, Shelton said, adding her lessons on the First Amendment changed the way she started thinking about the issue.

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