Two Muslim Women Suing McDonald's Over Claims They Weren't Hired Because of Their Headscarves

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This is a rush transcript from "The O'Reilly Factor," July 25, 2008. 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: McDonald's now under fire.

Two Muslim women in Dearborn, Michigan, have filed a $10 million discrimination lawsuit against the owner of a local McDonald's franchise and its manager. Now, the women say that the manager of the McDonald's refused to hire them and insulted them because they refused to remove their traditional Islamic head scarves in order to work at the restaurant. The company that owns that McDonald's disputes this claim. In fact, their attorney says that they are also considering filing civil rights complaints with federal and state governments.

Joining us now is Hussein Ibish, the executive director for the Foundation for the Arab-American Leadership. He's also the author of "At the Constitution's Edge: Arab-Americans and Civil Liberties in the United States."

Hussein, every time I hear about somebody running into court and filing a $10 million lawsuit, I — they kind of lose me right there. And I understand that people...


INGRAHAM: ...want their rights vindicated. But the facts are in dispute here. McDonald's...

IBISH: And that's why — that's why you need a trial. That's exactly why you go to court. A judge or a jury, probably both, will find out who's lying.

INGRAHAM: Right. Well, let me ask you though. Let's see where this could go here for a moment. I have some sympathy for these two women if, indeed, this happened in this circumstance. However, let's say, for example, that two Amish women...


INGRAHAM: ...wanted to work at Hooters.


INGRAHAM: But the Amish women said that they didn't want to dress provocatively? That was against their religious views.


INGRAHAM: So what do you think about that plan?

IBISH: It's been — well, I think it would be very difficult to sustain that, because the raison d'etre of Hooters is, you know, what it is. I'm not going to bother to describe it. I think we know.

So in other words, if you go to work for Hooters, you know what's expected of people who work at Hooters, and if you object to that, that's going to be a problem. It's been tested. And I think, you know, the basic arrangement that Hooters has has managed to survive this. McDonald's is not like that.

INGRAHAM: Well, what about Disneyland?

IBISH: I mean, what do you mean?

INGRAHAM: What about — what if you were interviewing to be Snow White or something at Disney World or you were going to walk around, but you said the only thing that you could wear is a full burka? Could you...

IBISH: Well, then you're not going to — no, of course not.

INGRAHAM: No? You can't make that claim?

IBISH: Of course no. Of course not.

INGRAHAM: Well, how about a full burka at McDonald's? Let's take it away...

IBISH: I think that would be a really interesting case. I've been thinking about that all day, and I'm not sure. I'm really not sure. There, you'd find a very interesting class between religious accommodation and the legitimate concerns of a business and running an operation that works smoothly in our cultural climate here.

INGRAHAM: Well, what's the difference?

IBISH: I think it would be very hard to sustain a burka claim. But this not a burka claim. This is a headscarf claim.

INGRAHAM: Well, a headscarf claim working at McDonald's.

IBISH: And let me tell you, a lot of restaurants make people — well, no, obviously.

INGRAHAM: Why not?

IBISH: Because a headscarf actually corresponds to working at a restaurant. A lot of restaurants actually ask people to cover their hair.

INGRAHAM: Headscarves don't bother me. It doesn't bother me, by the way. It doesn't bother me one bit.

IBISH: Exactly. Right. Of course not. And whereas a burka would create all kinds of issues about who's — you know, who is it? Who's working there? And I think it would be, you know, much more cultural distance. And I'm not sure how comfortable I'd be with it, to be absolutely honest with you. But there are almost no...

INGRAHAM: You stop at headscarves.

IBISH: There are almost no American Muslim women who wear burkas. That's not really a problem.

INGRAHAM: Yes, but not today. But that's the whole point. They will think about these issues and how they'll affect our culture. And I think a lot of people listening think, look, I'm not discriminating against anyone.

IBISH: Right.

INGRAHAM: But everybody wants America to accommodate them. I mean, nobody wants to accommodate...

IBISH: No, no. Wait a minute. These are Americans. Hold on.

INGRAHAM: They want us to bend to them.

IBISH: These are Americans. These women are not immigrants.

INGRAHAM: I'm not saying that. I'm talking about the traditional culture. Again, I don't care about the headscarves.

IBISH: These are African-Americans. They've adopted — as far as I can tell there, African-Americans who adopted a religion. They're adopted a sense of modesty. All they're doing is covering their hair. All true orthodox married women do it. All kind of women do it. It's — you know, it's just another standard of modesty. It doesn't — it shouldn't bother anybody.

INGRAHAM: But what about — what about — don't talk over me, because I have a point to make here.

IBISH: Go ahead.

INGRAHAM: What about the Muslim cabdrivers who won't pick up individuals who are assisted by working dogs?

IBISH: They need to get another job. That is ridiculous. They don't have a right to do that.

INGRAHAM: Are you for the foot baths? Are you for the foot baths?

IBISH: Of course. Why not? If people pay for it. Those guys paid for it. And they need to wash their feet. And they don't want to — you know, people don't want other people washing their feet...

INGRAHAM: We need more time.

IBISH: It's not complicated stuff. Religious accommodation is easy.

INGRAHAM: I think conservative Christians and Muslims on some of these issues actually agree on more issues than you'd expect.

IBISH: Grover Norquist explores that.

INGRAHAM: Mr. Ibish, we appreciate it. We'll talk to you at some point really soon.

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