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N. Calif. Muslim Restaurant Workers File Bias Suit

(SUNNYVALE, CA, 3/25/09) – The San Francisco Bay Area chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR-SFBA) today announced the filing of a lawsuit against Vaigai Restaurant in Sunnyvale, Calif., for routinely harassing its Muslim employees on the basis of their faith and allegedly forcing them to participate in religious rituals.

According to the complaint, restaurant personnel regularly used ethnic slurs such as “Thulakkan,” a pejorative term for Muslims in Sri Lankan Tamil dialect, to harass the two Muslim cooks. Also according to the complaint, restaurant staff were encouraged to call the plaintiffs by names such as “Rajan” or “Nagraj” under the pretext of not wanting to upset customers who might stop patronizing the restaurant if they heard the men referred to by their Muslim names.
The complaint also states that the plaintiffs were forced to participate in a religious ceremony despite telling the owners it was against their Islamic beliefs. The complaint alleges that the restaurant owners insisted on their participation and proceeded to smear a powder on their foreheads, making the religious marking known as a “tilak.”
“We claim that the defendants broke the law by making their employees participate in a religious ceremony that they knew was against their religion,” said Steve Tidrick of The Tidrick Law Firm, attorney for the plaintiffs and a former editor of the Harvard Law Review.
“We request that anyone with information about these incidents come forward so that justice may prevail,” said attorney Shah Peerally of The Shah Peerally Law Group, a leader in the Muslim legal community who is also representing the plaintiffs.
“These incidents clearly violated the Muslim workers’ rights and the treatment they received speaks of a level of intolerance that is deeply disturbing,” said CAIR-SFBA Programs and Outreach Director Agnes Chong. “There is a need for communities to be respectful of similarities as well as differences of other faiths, and it is all the more important in the workplace.”
CAIR offers a booklet called “An Employer’s Guide to Islamic Religious Practices” to help employers gain a better understanding of Islam and Muslims.
CAIR, America’s largest Islamic civil liberties and advocacy group has 35 offices and chapters nationwide and in Canada. Its mission is to enhance the understanding of Islam, encourage dialogue, protect civil liberties, empower American Muslims, and build coalitions that promote justice and mutual understanding.
CONTACT: CAIR-SFBA Programs and Outreach Director Agnes Chong, 408-986-9874, E-mail:


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