Interviews

Muslim Employee Claims Disneyland Won't Allow Her to Wear Headscarf

This is a RUSH transcript from "The O'Reilly Factor," August 24, 2010. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

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LAURA INGRAHAM, GUEST HOST: In the "Back of the Book" segment tonight: Disneyland gets accused of discrimination.

Imane Boudlal, a 26-year-old Muslim woman, has filed a complaint against Disneyland. She says the management won't let her wear her headscarf while she's in front of customers at the Magic Kingdom. Here is how she defines the situation.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

IMANE BOUDLAL, FILED COMPLAINT AGAINST DISNEYLAND: I'm not here to scare anybody. I want to keep my job. I'm a human being, and I have feelings.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

INGRAHAM: Joining us now from Orange County, California, is Ms. Boudlal's attorney, Ameena Qazi.

Ameena, a lot of folks are watching this across the country and they're trying to get their minds wrapped around this. This employee of Disneyland, they're called cast members -- they're all called cast members at Disney. She, for two years, did not ask to wear a headscarf, as I -- as I understand it, and then during Ramadan, as a hostess in one of the restaurants or one of the attractions at Disney, she decided she wanted to wear the headscarf. And so what was the, you know -- what was the impetus for the change in the way she wanted to conduct herself at Disney?

AMEENA QAZI, IMANE BOUDLAL'S ATTORNEY: You know, Imane, like many people out there, go through spiritual changes. Some people become born again; some people's religious practices changes. Imane is no different. She wanted to wear the headscarf in public and at work, and she requested to do so at her job as a hostess server, which is essentially like a waitress, at the California -- Grand Californian Hotel, which is owned and operated by Disney Company. She made the request in June, waited and waited, and finally she decided that she needed to start wearing it by Ramadan because of her religious practices.

INGRAHAM: So -- so as I understand it, Disney made two efforts to try to accommodate her. One effort was you could wear the head scarf but you also had to wear, I guess, the hat that -- one of the hats that other people wear, cast members. The other was, OK, if you want to wear your headscarf, you can work backstage or in the back where, you know, you won't be out of uniform -- the uniform that all the other Disney cast members are wearing.

What was wrong with either of those two options, given the fact that she signed an agreement when she went to work for Disney that she agreed to all these strict, very strict rules for dress, conduct -- I think no tattoos; men can't have facial hair. I mean, she knew what those rules are when she signed on.

QAZI: Right. Well, first of all in Disney's policies there actually is a paragraph that says that any exceptions for religious purposes can be made and requested to the casting director or to HR. So Disney's obligations to religiously accommodate her, I think is fairly dispositive.

As far as the actual attempts that they have made, you know, they weren't bona fide attempts to our understanding. They weren't reasonable. Wearing the hat -- there's not a single other hostess server in the restaurant who has to wear that hat.

INGRAHAM: Because they're not wanting to wear a headscarf though. I mean, other people aren't asking to wear a headscarf. Other people signed onto a set of rules that no one forced them to sign. She wanted to work at Disney, happiest place on Earth. I go to Disney, and everybody signs on to project an image.

And what I see is that private companies are now not allowed to brand themselves in a certain way, because if they do, someone is going to come along -- it doesn't have to be a Muslim, could be someone else -- says, "No, this doesn't work for me. I demand the terms of my employment to be changed."

QAZI: Well, Imane is not demanding anything but equal treatment under the law, and the law is fairly clear. It's not a new law; it's an old law. It's the Civil Rights Act of 1964, specifically Title 7, which guarantees her the right to religious accommodation for her sincerely held religious beliefs. So she's just made that simple request to Disney, and we're really hard-pressed to see why this simple request to wear a headscarf -- you can see I'm wearing a headscarf. I've been wearing it for 14 years.

INGRAHAM: But you don't work for Disney.

QAZI: ...high school. No, but I've worked for many institutions, many organizations.

INGRAHAM: Disney is Disney. It's Disney. It's a small world. It's Epcot Center. You know, it's all -- you know, the Disney stuff. That's what Disney does. If you don't want to do it, don't like Disney or you don't like the rules, work somewhere else. I mean, work somewhere where, you know, it's fine. The idea that Disney is discriminating -- I was just at Disney World last month on my book tour and, you know, I saw plenty of Muslims at Disney. You know, customers, they were going on rides. I mean, full burkas, the whole deal. I mean, I thought -- didn't seem like people were discriminating against anyone. It's just a look of the people who, you know, who work there. I just -- I don't know. I just think it's building distrust.

QAZI: I see your point, right. Right, and I hear your point. I mean, I myself went to Disney not too long ago -- Disneyland a month or so ago. I mean, we're not complaining of patrons as how we're treated. It's the exact irony of the situation that, as an employee...

INGRAHAM: All right. I appreciate it.

QAZI: ...she doesn't have the right to wear the hijab.

INGRAHAM: All right, Ameena. Thanks so much.

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