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Muslim Best Buy employee sexually harassed
CAIR is calling on Muslims nationwide to contact Minnesota-based Best Buy Co., one of the nation's largest electronics retailers, after that company failed to resolve a case of sexual harassment against a female Muslim employee in Maryland. (Best Buy operates more than 350 retail stores in 39 states.)
According to that employee, who wears hijab, a supervisor repeatedly made sexually explicit comments, which she tried to ignore. On September 8, 2000, the worker says the supervisor approached her from behind in a state of sexual arousal and whispered, "This is (for) you, This is (for) you," while rubbing against her.
The next day the supervisor again approached the Muslim woman, grabbed her hand and attempted to pull her close to him. She resisted and told him to stop and indicated that she was a married woman. The supervisor allegedly said: "That is good, because I am married too, I won't have to worry about my wife finding out because we both would have a lot to lose." He did not stop the harassment until another worker intervened.
Following that incident, the woman asked for time off because she no longer felt comfortable in the store. She said other workers who heard about the incident were avoiding her. Company officials allowed her to take time off but said she would not be paid and that the negative co-worker reactions were a result of the employee "running her mouth" about the incident.
In two letters to Best Buy, CAIR demanded that the company:
A similar case resulted in a female employee of Wal-Mart in Missouri being awarded 50 million dollars by a jury that found she was subjected to a hostile work environment. CAIR has filed a complaint with the EEOC, a step necessary prior to any lawsuit.
CAIR Civil Rights Coordinator S. Eric Shakir wrote to Best Buy: "It is...clear that Best Buy felt comfortable discriminating against [the employee] as harshly as she was for three reasons: 1. She is Muslim, 2. She is African-American, and 3. She is a woman.
"Had the victim not been a member of the above groups, we are confident that Best Buy's response would have been more appropriate. Instead, Best Buy chose to pressure [the employee] in the hopes that she would "break," absolving Best Buy of the responsibility to do anything at all in the form of just compensation... This...is one of the most egregious cases of discrimination we have ever seen..."
EEOC guidelines define sexual harassment as "unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature."
Muslim correctional officer wins right to wear beard
A Muslim correctional officer in State Farm, Va., will now be permitted to wear what he believes is a religiously-mandated beard following intervention by CAIR.
The officer, who was newly-hired by the Virginia Department of Corrections' Deep Meadow Correctional Center, was allegedly told he had "thirty minutes to decide if he wanted to keep his beard or his job."
After CAIR informed the director of the Virginia Department of Corrections that the center's action may have violated federal and state laws, the Muslim was rehired and permitted to wear his beard.
In 1999, a Supreme Court action left intact a lower court ruling supporting the right of Muslim police officers to wear beards. The earlier ruling, issued by the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit, said the Newark (N.J.) Police Department's no-beard policy was discriminatory because it allowed medical but not religious exemptions. (Fraternal Order of Police v. City of Newark)
In related cases resolved by CAIR over the past few years:
CAIR also announced that a Muslim employee of Sprint Corporation (NYSE: FON) in Kansas City, Mo., received a monetary settlement after initially being denied the right to attend mandatory Friday Islamic prayers. The worker was allegedly fired for going over his supervisor's head to make that request for religious accommodation.
After being made aware of the supervisor's actions, Sprint corporate officials immediately contacted the Muslim employee and offered a settlement.
"Both institutions should be congratulated for their quick action in dealing with these incidents. The question of what constitutes reasonable religious accommodation is one that more corporations will face as the workforce becomes increasingly diverse," said CAIR Civil Rights Coordinator S. Eric Shakir.
Shakir added that CAIR publishes a booklet, called "An Employer's Guide to Islamic Religious Practices," designed to prevent these incidents from occurring.
Canadian newspaper publishes apology for anti-Muslim article
A Canadian newspaper apologized publicly today for a weekend article titled "Islam Allows for No Other Faith" that claimed the religion of Islam is "false" and that the growth of Islam is an "ominous threat to our western way of life."
The commentary by J. Craig also claimed that Islam is merely the "deification of seventh-century Arabian culture." Craig also wrote that Allah is really an "Arabian moon god." (Arabic-speaking Christians also use the word "Allah" when referring to God.")
The Winnipeg Free Press in Winnipeg, Manitoba, published its apology after receiving "hundreds" of complaints from Muslims in Canada, the United States and around the world. Those complaints followed the distribution of a CAIR Action Alert. In his apology, headlined "Offence to Islam Not Taken Lightly," Free Press editor Nicholas Hirst admitted that the commentary "was condemnatory and, had I been Muslim, I should have found it offensive."
Hirst wrote: "In retrospect, the standards of debate to which we would hold ourselves were breached on Saturday. Like others, we learn from our mistakes. The views expressed are not the views of this newspaper...The letter, however, crossed the normal bounds of acceptable debate within this newspaper. I am responsible for what appears in this newspaper and I offer my apology for the offence caused." The newspaper also published a number of letters critical of the inaccurate information presented in Saturday's article.
Shahina Siddiqui of the Manitoba Islamic Association wrote: "You cannot imagine the pain and suffering you have caused our people and especially our children who were born in this country and who naively believe that Canada is a country where their faith is respected and protected and that they are free to practise their religion." A Texas Muslim said, "I really don't mind people criticizing and not agreeing with my faith, Islam. But they should do that in a respectful and accurate manner."
"This type of inaccurate and offensive article goes beyond the limits of public debate into hate-speech that could harm the safety and well-being of the Muslim community in Canada," said Dr. Sheema Khan chair of CAIR's Canadian office (CAIR-CAN). "CAIR thanks all those who contacted the newspaper to express their outrage. Every letter had an impact," said Khan.
New movie drops
Alhamdulillah, CAIR today announced the end of a two-year campaign to have Paramount Pictures drop "Muslim" villains in the new film "The Sum of All Fears" currently beginning production in Montreal, Canada.
Director Phil Alden Robinson told CAIR that unlike the Tom Clancy novel on which the movie is based, "The Sum of All Fears" will not have Muslims as the villains. (According to the book, terrorists detonate a nuclear device at the Super Bowl in Denver. The bomb comes from an unexploded Israeli nuclear device found on the Golan Heights.)
In his letter to CAIR, Robinson wrote: "I hope you will be reassured that I have no intention of promoting negative images of Muslims or Arabs, and I wish you the best in your continuing efforts to combat discrimination."
For the past two years, CAIR has been in contact with Paramount Pictures and Mace Neufeld, the film's original director, to discuss Muslim characters in the book and their possible use in the screenplay.
"Given the existing prejudice against and stereotyping of Islam and Muslims, we believe this film could have had a negative impact on the lives of ordinary American Muslims, particularly children. We are pleased that Mr. Robinson took the initiative to help eliminate religious and ethnic bias from his film. This move should set a precedent for other movie producers," said CAIR Board Chairman Omar Ahmad.
Ahmad added that each year, CAIR issues an annual report on the status of American Muslim civil rights outlining hundreds of incidents involving anti-Muslim discrimination, harassment and even physical violence. He said that many of these incidents result from the negative images of Islam and Muslims put forward in the entertainment industry.
"The Sum of All Fears" is not the first film that had the potential to stereotype Muslims and Arabs. In recent years, films such as "Rules of Engagement," "True Lies" and "Executive Decision" portrayed Muslims and Arabs as irrational terrorists who only wish to kill innocent Americans.
In 1998, CAIR led the Muslim community in a sustained campaign to educate the public about what it said were negative stereotypes in the 20th Century Fox film "The Siege." That film was set in Brooklyn, N.Y., and involved a series of terrorist bombings by "Muslims" that prompted the American military to declare martial law and carry out a mass arrest of American Muslims and Arab-Americans. The scenario was similar to the detention of Japanese-Americans during WWII.
CAIR has acted as a consultant on other films such as DreamWorks SKG's "Prince of Egypt."
Muslims win accommodation in public schools
Alhamdulillah (praise be to Allah). CAIR has announced that public schools in Georgia, Virginia and Texas will grant religious accommodation to Muslim students and teachers. These accommodations are now available to you and your children.
GEORGIA - TEACHERS ALLOWED TIME FOR JUMAHIn Atlanta, Ga., the public school district has agreed to allow a teacher to attend Jumah prayers after initially refusing that request. In response to a complaint by CAIR, the district's legal representative said: "...it is always our intent to comply with the law and we will do so in this instance."
VIRGINIA - STUDENTS ALLOWED TO WEAR HIJABThe principal of Gar-Field Senior High School in Woodbridge, Va., has apologized after threatening to send a Muslim student to detention each day she wore hijab to school. In a letter to the student, Gar-Field's principal wrote: "Please accept my apology for any misunderstanding or discomfort which you have experienced."
VIRGINIA - STUDENTS EXCUSED FROM MUSIC CLASSIn another Virginia incident, officials at Samuel Tucker Elementary School in Alexandria, Va., will excuse a Muslim student from music class on religious grounds. After CAIR provided the school with a copy of the Virginia Board of Education regulations dealing with the issue, officials allowed the girl to visit the library during music class.
TEXAS - MUSLIM ATHLETES ALLOWED MODEST DRESSA Muslim student at Cedar Park High School in Cedar Park, Texas, is being allowed to join the track team after the coach initially told her she would be barred unless she wore shorts. Following discussions with CAIR, the school's principal agreed to let the student wear a loose tracksuit.
"The resolution of these incidents marks a pattern of increasing respect for religious beliefs and practices in the public arena," said CAIR Civil Rights Coordinator S. Eric Shakir.