Monday, September 06, 2010

Head games

So, 18 year old Halla Banafa walks into an Abercrombie & Fitch store in Milpitas, California with the intent to gain employment.   When she walked out of the store, Halla was dejected when she was told that the head covering she was wearing was against company policy and that it wasn’t the “Abercrombie look”.  I’m sure you can see what’s coming.  That’s right, a religious freedom lawsuit involving a Muslim against the big, bad corporate America image.

Let’s be honest, Halla Banafa’s first mistake was applying for a job at a company that loves to peddle overpriced clothing to teenagers that have a fantasy about getting laid by a member of the Gossip Girl cast.  The last decade has been busy for A & F, as their catalogs overtook Victoria’s Secret as the one most likely to show up in a brown paper bag.  The company figured that the best way to get teens to open their wallets was to show nude models in all their glory and remind them that plaid flannels, the “Abercrombie  Look”, would make them more popular than the kid that played Magic the Gathering.  Oh yeah, and some of those models may have been underage.  Fantastic company to work for.

Still, Ms. Banafa’s issues of “religious tolerance” pretty much end when the guidelines say “no head  coverings”.  Unless the interviewer basically said “we don’t hire Muslims”, I can’t justify a  lawsuit that is going to take a business out back and spank them because they weren’t going to follow a politically correct path towards employing people.  I would have hoped that the interviewer asked “would you be willing to work without your headscarf”, and that the answer in the negative pretty much left out much possibility of a religious issue.  Banafa’s lawsuit is bogus. 

I’ve seen this issue brought up at school on occasion, and usually the only time it becomes a problem is when a) the student becomes offended at something the teacher said, or b) the teacher forces a kid to stand for the Pledge or the National Anthem.  When I coached in Live Oak, California there was an issue with Sikh daggers that went away really fast.  I was also involved in an incident in Redding, California during a basketball play-off game.  Refs wanted the Sikh members of our team to remove their turbans, even though it was against Section policy.  To his credit, the varsity coach threatened to walk off the floor and refs came to their senses.  When teaching freshman and sophomores I occasionally had a parent that doesn’t like their Christian child learning about Islam.  Other than that, religious issues in school aren’t really a problem.

We have enough real problems in society regarding the role of religion without having an 18 year old with a grudge get in a snit because she misread the First Amendment of the United States Constitution.   

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