Abercrombie & Fitch Fires Muslim for Wearing Hijab

Late last year, the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR) filed a lawsuit against Abercrombie & Fitch for not hiring a Muslim who wore a hijab. But that did not stop them from firing this Muslim who wore one. If you cannot follow the dress code, you should not be allowed to work there. It is that simple.

Bay Area retailer’s ‘diversity’ in question
By Matt O’Brien
Contra Costa Times

SAN MATEO — Hani Khan never set out to be the next lightning rod of the culture wars, testing the limits of religious acceptance in the Bay Area and the retail industry.

Unfazed by the blaring pop rock, haze of cologne and sepia-toned posters of bare-chested surfers, she walked confidently into a Hollister Co. clothing store last fall, sat down for an interview and secured a part-time job. The 19-year-old liked that she could go to work in flip-flops, jeans and a color-coordinated hijab, the head scarf she wears as an expression of her Muslim faith.

“Hollister associates represent American style,” said the employee handbook she picked up on her first day. “America is diverse, and we want diversity in our stores.”

So far, so good. She was, after all, American, born in New York to an Indian father and Pakistani mother and raised in California. The sophomore at the College of San Mateo has worn a head scarf in her classrooms since kindergarten. She wore it to malls and movie theaters and while playing second base for the softball team at San Mateo High.

“To me, it symbolizes my faith, where I’m coming from,” she said. “People don’t focus on my beauty so much as they focus on my intelligence, on what I have to say.”

In the broad-minded Bay Area, no one ever argued with that.

Except, last month, at Hollister, the spinoff of Ohio-based Abercrombie & Fitch that she says fired her for wearing the hijab at work almost five months after she started there. A week before her termination, during a meeting with a district manager, was the first time in her life someone had confronted her — not just out of curiosity — about her Islamic garb.

“She called us from there and said, ‘Come and pick me up,’ ” said Khan’s father, who asked that his full name not be used in concern for his family’s safety. “She was really upset.”

Abercrombie & Fitch has refused to comment on its dress policy or on Khan, who filed a federal discrimination complaint against the company last week. News of the dispute, which is likely to be investigated by the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, or EEOC, has fielded a diverse reaction.

At the crux of the debate is how inclusive employers should be when a worker’s appearance clashes with their corporate image.

“A company like Abercrombie & Fitch, and particularly the Hollister brand, is really selling not just clothing but a lifestyle, an image,” said Jo-Ellen Pozner, who teaches organizational behavior at the Haas School of Business at UC Berkeley. “It is normal for organizations to recruit and socialize their staff in a way that’s consistent with the image they’re trying to get across to their customers.”

From an ethical standpoint, however, it seems to Pozner that the company went too far.

“It’s entirely appropriate until the line where it invades someone’s civil liberties,” she said. “If (the company culture is) strong and it’s enforced informally, then people who don’t fit in are going to be filtered out. That’s a pretty powerful way to keep a culture strong. It’s very different to fire someone.”

Building a unique and uniform brand — in Hollister’s case, one associated with a made-up Southern California beach town — is part of the business model.

Flip-flops or slip-on sneakers are not only encouraged for Hollister employees, but required, according to the handbook Khan received, adding to the surfboards and other props that give the store a beachy atmosphere.

Lip balm is welcome, but not lipstick. Makeup, if worn at all, “must be worn to enhance natural features and create a fresh, natural appearance.”

Tattoos are accepted as long as they will not distract customers, and “cornrow hairstyles are not permitted.” Hair must “appear neat, clean, natural, kempt, and classic. This means that the hairstyle must look as if it could have grown that way.”

Because she wore a hijab, no one could see Khan’s hair. But there was nothing in the guide, known as the Look Policy, that seemed to expressly prohibit a scarf over her head as long as she wore the right colors. The only reference to headgear was a ban on caps.

“Even though Hollister sells caps, they are considered too informal for work — caps are not allowed to be worn,” the guide said.

Kjerstin Elmen-Gruys is surprised that Khan got the job in the first place, and that she wanted it. She worked for more than a year as an associate merchant for Hollister clothing at the corporate headquarters of Abercrombie & Fitch in New Albany, Ohio.

“Think of your customer as young, sexy, all-American,” was what employees were told, Elmen-Gruys said. “We talked about who the customer was, not what it wasn’t. All-American was left for us to figure out what it meant on our own.”

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87 comments for “Abercrombie & Fitch Fires Muslim for Wearing Hijab

  1. noone
    March 4, 2010 at 7:05 pm

    Too bad if the dress code says no head covering it means everyone.America must not change for the will of a minority because this is what has happened in Europe.If American women think our laws are subversive try sharia law!

  2. March 4, 2010 at 7:42 pm

    I am surprised too that she wanted the job. And I am glad that the hijab is seen as un-American. Islam is anti-American from what I can see. A Moslem's allegiance is not to America 1st, it is to Islam and other Moslems.

    • March 4, 2010 at 7:48 pm

      Maybe she was looking for the lawsuit from the get go.

      • March 5, 2010 at 7:53 am

        That would be my first suspicion. There's a recent report of an arselifting bint trying that at a university in Canada.

    • guest
      March 16, 2010 at 8:37 am


      • March 16, 2010 at 8:41 am

        Lets not play games here. You are posting from the same email address as "Sue" is. Do you proof that this was not a setup for a lawsuit?

    • Proud Muslim
      April 27, 2010 at 8:27 pm

      If they saw that her hijab does not "fit" with the image they are trying to keep up with, then why hire her in the first place? why wait 5 months and they fire her? She is An American, she has civil liberties and rights just as any US citizen, she has the right to apply to any job she wants in the US. Islam is not anti-American, get your facts straight and educate yourself before you make assumptions about something you obviously know nothing about.

      • April 28, 2010 at 4:24 am

        Sorry to disappoint you, arselifter, but we know all about your takiya. So we're not making any assumptions. We know that all you'll do is lie about hislam, Mahound, allah and the rest.

        • luvspink
          August 4, 2010 at 3:15 pm

          it’s Islam not hislam
          and Mohammad not Mahound

          Btw you’re very prejudiced

          • admin
            August 4, 2010 at 3:17 pm

            Why don’t you explain what we are supposed to like, about the possibility of Islam ruling over the world?

  3. March 4, 2010 at 10:46 pm

    Now I'm a pretty fair guy, so let me voice my opinion.
    Was she told during her interview that the hijab is not allowed?

    Did Ambercrombie change the policy during this girls tenure?
    Was she told about the change?
    Was she given a "warning" that the hijab is no longer allowed?

    These questions all have to be answered. Yes its great to see an American company with balls, but to be fair, she should have been given the choice of ….Hijab or job.

    As far as I know..Ambercrombie is an "At Will" company. Meaning..they can terminate your employ for whatever reason.
    Lets see how this plays out.

  4. DavidB
    March 5, 2010 at 2:45 am

    Hey, they didn’t want women wearing hijabs, what’s the big deal?

    They don’t want their company associated with an ethically immoral ideology, what’s the problem with that?

  5. March 5, 2010 at 2:44 pm

    Here's a report on a similar incident that happened in Quebec, Canada

  6. March 5, 2010 at 2:44 pm

    Here's a report on a similar incident that happened in Quebec, Canada

  7. guest
    March 5, 2010 at 5:53 pm

    who wants to see a hooters girl wearing a hijab? have to have dress codes!

  8. sue
    March 16, 2010 at 8:35 am

    this is ridiculous people can get naked in public but not allow to wear hijab.

    • March 16, 2010 at 8:37 am

      You are missing the point. The store gets to dictate their dress code, if someone cannot comply they should not work there.

  9. March 16, 2010 at 8:49 am

    thanks for posting this

  10. April 27, 2010 at 8:36 pm

    Islam calls for the death of apostates, and gays. It allows rape. Sharia Law is not equal for all. That is anti-American.

    When you can refute that, get back to me.

    • Sara
      August 20, 2010 at 1:18 pm

      I invite you all on this site to Study the True Islam via authentic Quran not just the translation but also with the commentary.

      All divine books contain the same message of Oneness of the True Creator (God). all Divine books teach Love, peace, equality, good character and humanity. Some people strive hard to follow the true teachings and some misinterpret it. Who is to blame for the failings, the message or the follower?

      Each manufactured car comes with a manual to explain about the vehicle’s specification. How well the driver understand the power of the vehicle is down to the driver not the vehicle. A bad driver does not represent the weakness of the vehicle but it’s own comprehension of the vehicle’s true power.

      It is the same with religion and Divine messge. Some try to follow it well while others do not.

      Quran is not like the bible to be interpreted at one’s will. To truly understand teh real message of Islam, one must understand the circumstances and history behind each revelation. To do this you need the Commentary alongside the translation (Ibn Kathir recommended).

      I invite you all to study Islam and to embrace it as a complete way of life to acheive eternal peace.

      Abraham, Moses, Jesus, Solomon, David, Mohammed all followed One God and preached the same message. It’s the people who created their own divisions and deviancies within each religion. The message had always been the same!! Oneness of One God.

      For those who fear the world being taken over by Shariah Law, I pity you and your insecurities. If you had spared just a little time to get to know some muslims in your own communities (without prejudice), you will find that 99% are happy living with the laws of the land they reside in without wanting to change anything.

      Fear of the unknown leads to prejudice. I urge you all to get to know some muslims in your local communities to put your minds at rest. you will find that your fears are baseless.

      Peace to you all.

      • August 20, 2010 at 9:03 pm

        We already know the true nature of pislam.

      • admin
        August 21, 2010 at 3:39 am

        1. You keep saying I am wrong about Islam, yet you cannot prove it. Here is the deal, do it on your next post or you will not be posting here anymore. I will not spend anymore time on you.

        2, The Sharia movement is clearly documented on this site, and people can read the articles and see that you are just another lying Muslim. Talking to Muslims does not change a thing, Muslims are very deceptive people, and you are a perfect example of this. You are posting under the names Sara, Joe King, and Voice of Reason. All from the same IP address. Obviously you cannot be trusted. Thanks for proving my point.

      • eib
        September 14, 2010 at 3:49 pm

        Quran is not like the bible to be interpreted at one’s will.
        end quote.

        Who told you that the Bible is interpreted “at one’s will”?
        That’s true for a few sects in Christianity, but certainly not for all and certainly not for those which are main line.

      • desertscout
        September 26, 2010 at 6:13 pm

        ” … Abraham, Moses, Jesus, Solomon, David, Mohammed all followed One God and preached the same message. It’s the people who created their own divisions and deviancies within each religion. The message had always been the same!! Oneness of One God…. ”

        This is a lie from the pit of hell. There is no way that the pagan god of the Arabian desert is the same deity that spoke to Moses on the Arabian mountain of Sinai. The gods of the Arabian pagan pantheon are an anathema to the G-D of Abraham, Isaac, and Israel. The demonic message tells Muslims that their imp, demon allah is the same god as the Deity of Abraham, Isaac (the son of promise), and Israel. “… Abraham, Moses, Jesus, Solomon, David,” all knew the traits of a false prophet and all would have turned Muhammad out of the camp (or stoned him) for teaching a god that they had not known and bringing a message that HaShem did not dictate. Jewish sages believe that HaShem conversed with Moses as one man speaks to another. When Moses came down from the mountain, the face of Moses beamed brightly with shekinah of HaShem so that the people asked Moses to cover his face when he spoke to them. This Moses was not speaking with the demon, allah. This is just more flawed Islamic catechism that you and many other Muslims spread on this site and many others like it.

  11. VoiceOfReason
    August 20, 2010 at 12:46 pm

    To ChristopherL and Other: Check out the definition of Islamosphobia and see if you fit the bill.
    For so called ‘Modern’ age, you people hold some amazingly stone-aged intolerant views! and you have the Cheek to criticize other peoples morals and beliefs.. Heck that makes me laugh!
    You people get your (mis)information from a box so you don’t have to exercise your pea-brains and then have the audacity to be discriminate. Non-muslims are treated WAY better in muslim countries compared to how you alledgedly ‘tolerant’, ‘open-minded’ bigots treat ethnic minorities!


    • August 20, 2010 at 9:02 pm

      Do you know what kafirphobia is? Come back to us when you’ve also worked out what hypocrisy really means.

    • admin
      August 21, 2010 at 3:42 am

      Islamophobia is an attack word used to try and silence the critics of Islam. It does not work here, and no one should tolerate the intolerance of Islam.
      The Copts are a perfect example of just how well non-Muslims are treated in Muslim countries. Sorry but we deal in facts, and not your propaganda.

    • desertscout
      September 26, 2010 at 6:37 pm

      Let me know when you have Afro-American relatives, Japanese relatives, Chinese relatives, Mexican relatives, South American relatives and are a white man like me, that is only the second generation born in the US. I have to lol at the real bigots like you who pull the race card and talk down to others as if they, themselves are really living above their own inane rhetoric. If you hose-brains really are so socially superior, then I’ll be happy to compare the number of different races at one of my family gatherings around a holiday with different races at one of your family gatherings!!! What is the real definition of ” … so called ‘Modern’ age .. “??? Come on Dr. expert on bigotry; expound upon what ‘Modern’ really means to you. Expound on the diversity of your family tree, and then try to pull the race card again!!!

    • New Cursader
      September 27, 2010 at 2:58 pm

      Voice of Reason? More like voice of Idiot.

  12. Joe King
    August 20, 2010 at 12:58 pm

    Given the state of modern America, this girl being fired for her Faith is no surprise, even if she is born in this country. People will ALWAYS judge you with HATE if you’re a muslim, and if by some Freak conincidence they get past that, they might get to know you’re a human being too and a nice one at that!

    This is prejudice, This is discrimination, This is modern America!!!

    Land of ‘freedom’, ‘hope’ and glory !?!?! … As long as you do what you’re told and wear what you’re told!!!

    • admin
      August 21, 2010 at 3:40 am

      We are not going to let Islam takeover in the name of freedom.

  13. Mrs. Curtis
    September 10, 2010 at 3:28 pm

    I teach 7th grade Social Studies and we discussed this article in class today. The kids were up in arms about the underlying issue of freedom of expression/religion. Some students understood and supported the Company’s position, while other students thought Khan’s rights were being trampled all for the sake of a “Look Policy.” Our question is this: If the hijab was against the store dress code, then why did she get the job in the first place???

    • admin
      September 14, 2010 at 3:20 pm

      Hello Mrs. Curtis,

      I apologize for not getting back to you sooner. That is a good question, and I do not have a definite answer to it. Maybe the person who hired her did not mind the headscarf, but the district manager did (as stated in the article). Obviously the district manager had the last call. Also she might not have worn it during the interview, and then when she showed up with it they were afraid to fire her. I appreciate you bringing this issue to light in your classroom.



  14. eib
    September 14, 2010 at 3:46 pm

    As an employer, Abercrombie and Fitch has a right to make conditions to its workers.
    There are many employers which require a specific uniform or mode of dress. There has never been a 1st Amendment suit filed against a hospital for requiring a surgeon to scrub and wear surgeon’s gear, for example.
    The employer has always had the right to dictate the atmosphere in the place and the clothing and supply of his/her workers.

  15. Pfft.
    September 26, 2010 at 2:44 pm

    Everyone who’s commented here must be kidding. How could you support the people who fired her if you live in America. Talking about being all-american and especially the comment “We are not going to let Islam takeover in the name of freedom.” is definitelynot american. We’re not going to let people who wear hijabs take over our freedom? YOU’RE THE ONE TAKING AWAY THE FREEDOM of America by even SAYING that shit. Someone who won’t allow another to follow their own religion is NOT freedom.

    • September 26, 2010 at 8:48 pm

      They are not in America to be equal but to take over. If you’re happy with that, you’re a dhimmi.

    • admin
      September 28, 2010 at 8:53 pm

      So you are saying that it would be American to let Islam takeover? I just want to be sure what you mean.

      Islam is not freedom, and here you are defending it.

  16. desertscout
    September 26, 2010 at 6:58 pm

    “Everyone who’s commented here … ” ‘Everyone???’

    Certain Islamic groups in America don’t think that a woman should have to show her face for a drivers license. It was ruled that she does have to show her face to obtain a license to drive. Is that unAmerican??? Nobody is depriving her of a job. If the Islamic community approves of Abercrombie & Fitch, then I am sure that a franchise could be opened by Islamic owners that would require that a hijab or even a whole berka be worn by all female sales people. So, what is that to you???

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