Two young American Muslim women are suing the world's largest chain of fast food restaurants McDonald's over denying them jobs for donning hijab, the Detroit News reported on Friday, July 25.
"I applied for the McDonald's position maybe two weeks ago and he (the manager) simply (told me) I had to make a choice and remove my hijab, or I would not be able to establish employment there," 25-year-old Quiana Pugh said.
"When I walked away, I was definitely hurt by it and disturbed. I was confused that it could happen here in Dearborn, with so many Muslims."
Pugh found that she was not the only hijab-clad woman denied jobs in McDonald's branch in Dearborn in the state of Michigan.
Toi Whitfield, 20, from Detroit city, was also denied a job in McDonald's branch in Dearborn in November 2006.
The Muslim pair on Thursday filed a discrimination lawsuit against the fast-food chain before Wayne County Circuit Court.
Many American Muslims have complained of being discriminated against on religious bases.
Last month, Democratic presidential nominee Barack Obama apologized for two Muslim women after they were barred from sitting behind him at an election rally for wearing hijab.
Last January, a US high-school star runner was pulled out of the track for wearing a uniform that allows her to compete while complying with her Muslim faith.
Islam sees hijab as an obligatory code of dress, not a religious symbol displaying one's affiliations.
There are between six to seven million Muslims living in the United States.
McDonald's anti-hijab attitude drew fire from lawyers and American Muslims.
"This manager must have just stepped off of some spaceship to think he can do this in this back yard, in Dearborn," said civil rights lawyer Nabih Ayad.
The umbrella Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR) denounced the manager's position as 'racist'.
"It is extremely disturbing that such discrimination could take place at a location which does not mind collecting Muslim dollars, yet places restriction on Muslim women who wear hijab," CAIR-Michigan executive director Dawud Walid.
A McDonald's spokeswoman said the management company that runs the Dearborn restaurant "has a strict policy prohibiting any form of discrimination."
The Dearborn restaurant is one of only two McDonald's restaurants in the US that sells halal food.
Whitfield, the Muslim plaintiff, said the lawsuit against McDonald's aims to protect other hijab-wearing girls against discrimination.
"I hope that they learn from their mistakes," said Whitfield.
American Muslims have become sensitized to an erosion of their civil rights since the 9/11 attacks.
A 2007 survey by Pew Research Center and the Pew Forum found that attitudes toward Muslims and Islam have grown more negative in recent years.
"They should not discriminate against people. Everyone should have an equal chance to work at McDonald's," said Whitfield.