As if the frenzy over Park51 wasn’t enough, a Muslim woman’s desire to wear a headscarf at her job at a Disney-owned restaurant has revealed more appalling bigotry and intolerance toward American Muslims.
Imane Boudlal, who recently became a U.S. citizen, had worked at the Storyteller’s Café in Disney’s Grand Californian Hotel & Spa for the past two years. She approached her employer about wearing hijab in observance of Ramadan, which began earlier this month, in June, and was told that the request would have to be approved by the corporate office. When she followed up, weeks later, she was told that the request was still under review. She was then taken to the costume department, where she was told that she could wear a hat instead.
Boudlal wore her hijab for the first time last Sunday, August 15, and claims that she was told to work in the back of the restaurant or go home. On Wednesday, after being told to take off her headscarf upon arriving for each shift, she arrived with photographers and reporters in tow, and walked out when she was told to remove her hijab. She was then taken off the schedule, although Disney has denied that was suspended without pay, saying that she was simply taken off the schedule until the matter was resolved.
The issue, Disney claims, was that the hijab was not part of the “costume” that hostesses were required to wear (according to the L.A. Times, this consists of “camp-style green slacks, orange vest and long-sleeved white shirt”). However, this seems like a pretty bogus claim to me – Disney was likely worried about the reaction that they would get to a hostess wearing clothes that would identify her as a Muslim. And this, based on some of the comments accompanying the articles about Boudlal, is an understandable fear, even if their actions were completely intolerant and unacceptable.
“Disneyland is an american icon, and needs to remain that way. I go there to get away from reality, not to be confronted with Islamic religion. Its DisneyLand not MuslimLand!!!”
“Go back to your own country, or abide by employers rules. I know Disney has “costume themes” for all their public employees. Why not try to be an actress on broadway and wear that rag on your had too!”
“This person has duped the US! She apparently tried to assimilate into our culture and wasn’t wearing the scarf. Now, after becoming a citizen, she is showing her true self. Sueing Disney at that. She is looking for a free ticket in life and really needs to be looking for a new job. Assimilate or go back were you came from! Disney, fight this. It is your business and show. We like it just the way it is.”
The recent protests against Park51 were ringing in my head as I read these comments, and they were yet another reminder of the intense intolerance of which Americans can be capable.
Photo from Wikimedia Commons.