How immigrants are redefining 'American' in Southern California

Interesting take on Disney workers' hijab and the mainstreaming of Muslim culture

Photo courtesy of CAIR-LA

Intern Noor Abdallah in modified Disney uniform

It's been a few weeks since I last wrote about Noor Abdallah and Imane Boudial, the two Muslim women working at the Disneyland resort in Anaheim who were pressuring their employer for the right to wear hijab at work.

In his column yesterday, the Los Angeles Times' Michael Hiltzik wrote about the issue again with some interesting perspective on Disney: Given the company's massive influence on entertainment and mainstream culture in general, could its actions help pave the way toward the mainstreaming of Muslim culture and standards of dress?

As an example of Disney's cultural evolution, Hiltzik cited in his column Disneyland's one-time ban on same-sex dancing, which in 1984 led to the eviction of two gay men from the park. The company lifted the ban the next year following a court challenge.

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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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A Muslim NYC firefighter on the events of 9/11

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mU5W-iUv8fg&feature=player_embedded

This moving short video is part of a series of PSAs released at the beginning of this month by the Council on American-Islamic Relations, the nation's largest Islamic civil rights group. The series of three videos is titled "9/11 Happened to All of Us." Two feature first responders, including the firefighter, and a third spot features a several religious leaders from different faiths. The video above was featured today in a post in ColorLines.

The PSAs were released in response to what news reports and polls have indicated is a growing sense of Islamophobia in the United States. The past several weeks have been marked by the highly-publicized public debate and protests over the construction of a planned Islamic cultural center near the site of the former World Trade Center (which, according to today's New York Times, had a Muslim prayer room), and the media circus in Florida over a pastor's now-cancelled plan to burn copies of the Quran.

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