Disney Restaurant Hostess Sues To Wear Hijab At Work

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.

Various commenters on VOA News wrote,

“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.


Collette L.
Collette L.5 years ago

Every job has it's uniform, and we should all abide by our workplace rules. So my advice to her is loosen-up and enjoy life and don't lose your job.

Mary Theriot
Mary Theriot6 years ago

If a place of employment has a dress code, I think there should be no exceptions to the rule-and we know what and why the disney rules are-they make sense to me. As long as they're not asking you to be immodest.

Gale Johansen
Gale Johansen6 years ago

This story has many dimensions to it and the comments made about it are so "all over the place" that it's a bit hard to try to sort out exactly what's here. My grandparents were living in Orlando when the "Mouse and Company" invaded so I have a bit of experience with Disney and how it functions. Disney has long used the idea that they don't hire people but instead "cast" them to be able to rather tightly control hiring without the interference of such bothersome, to them, ideas of fair employment practices or labor laws. By doing that, by having some really good lawyers, by being located in the south where employees have not traditionally had the protection of unions and where the populace is more conservative in general, they have truly carved out "a kingdom for themselves." So having said all this the story is not much of a surprise to me. The Disney Company is not known for either its tolerance or its flexibility and are not only unapologetic they are generally proud of it. Not knowing this person I can't comment on her situation, her mindset or why she might be taking on the "Mouse" but I am appalled by some of the nature of the comments posted here. This is, ultimately a legal issue and I don't understand the bigotry or hate being directed at her. As any American may do she is free to avail herself of the legal system to pursue her beliefs and seek justice as she believes it to be.

Annmari Lundin
Annmari Lundin7 years ago

Disney has many dress codes. No visible jewelry. No visible tattoos. Every restaurant, ride, etc have their own theme. Even maintainence staff have their special uniforms. We can think what we like about Disney's somewhat hard dress codes, but there's a reason why they are there. For me as a guest to clearly identify anyone of the staff I need to find and that jewelry and such can be a security issue. I know some of the rules can seem old fashioned, but whatever I may think of them, they have the right to issue them. In the case of the jihab, I'm inclined to side with Disney. If they allowed the woman to wear this religiously connected piece of clothing they would set a presedence for every other employee with any religious belief. Do you really want to see crosses, buddist clothing, jewish attires, etc, when you visit a Disney park? Just as always: Religion is an opium for the people!

Robert Coleman
Robert C7 years ago

Having a pre-existing dress code that covers all religions puts Disney in the clear here, for better or worse. However, I have been a little irritated with some of the things being said here, so...

Margaret Patricio:
As a Canadian, where do you get off commenting on American assimilation anyway? If you actually knew squat about this place, you'd know that it is supposed to be a melting pot of cultures. Your justification also comes from a mindset of two 'wrongs' making a 'right'. Just because the country where this woman comes from enforces a fascist dress policy (by western standards) when outsiders visit it, we should react in same? Do you have a problem with things being forced on people, or not?!?

Everybody that basically said "go back to where you came from":
Why don't YOU go back to where you (or your ancestors) came from? Ninety-nine percent of the people here now are not native, and most likely came to escape some condition or another in their native land. Did you ever stop to think that this woman may have come here for the same reasons why you ended up being here?

Ant M.:
Toss your Beatles records in with that cross you're burning.

Terry B(igot).:
"She could always get a nice-paying job as Minnie Mouse and even wear the damn fool burka under the mask." That's good and hateful. Finish what you start by returning to our argument here:

Charles Webb:
What? Wait, you said it. I don't care.

Sarah D.
Sarah D7 years ago

If only Disney watched more of their classic films, Princess Jasmine wears a form of hijab in the movie "Aladdin" and the sequels and TV show.

Empress Ginger
Ginger Strivelli7 years ago

Sadly America often disrespects any and all faiths other than Christians.
There is no reason a Muslim, (or Hindu, or Pagan, or Mayan, etc. ) person and their religious beliefs and practices should not be respected just as much as Christian ones are.
Would they ask a Christian to wipe the ashes off their face on Ash Wednesday? Or would they ask someone to take off a necklace displaying a person painfully arched dead, bleeding on a cross...that might offend, frighten, disgust some who see it.
Christians need to stop being 'offended' by others faiths, beliefs, practices, Gods and Goddesses. You worship as you wish and let others worship as they wish....mind your own business in other words....if someone follows a different faith than you, it does you no harm...you might even learn something of other cultures that you missed in social studies back in High school.

Margaret Patricio
margaret patrick7 years ago

I definitely agree with the notion that she has to assimilate to the American culture and if she desires to wear the head scarf or cover her entire face and dress up in black, she should stay in her country. After all, when non muslim travel to their countries we must do as the country's rules and must cover our heads whether we like it or detest it.

Nick Nakorn
Nick Nakorn7 years ago

While I think all organisations that are not explicitly religious should be strictly secular in their policies, they must realise that to be secular is to allow religious freedom for all. If, for example, Christians are allowed to wear a crucifix under their costume at Disney then a Muslim should be allowed to wear a headscarf under a hat. In this case the the request for was only for the period of Ramadan and I can't see it would be beyond the abilities of Disney's managers to make reasonable adjustments. If, on the other hand, Christians are allowed to wear crucifixes openly, then one might say that a simple headscarf should be accomodated regardless.

Clearly, in a secular society it is up to citizens and employers to be flexible and to recognise that, whether or not we agree with a particular religion (or with any religion), our freedom of expression is more important than corporate power.

Aditi Acharya
.7 years ago

everyone has the freedom to dress. why this partial behavior is shown toward the woman if her outfit has nothing to do with her work efficiency.