Saturday, June 09, 2012

Burqa Ban At Factory In Minnesota Prompts Somalis To Walk Off Job

Where I live you don't see burqas, hijabs occasionally but not often. And usually the women who don the head scarves are, laughably, wearing those skin tight, trendy jeans. So much for the whole modesty issue.

But Minnesota, apparently, has quite a few burqa-clad women in the Somali community over there, and a bunch of them just walked off their job at Dianne's Fine Desserts in Le Center because of a new burqa ban instituted by new management. And it's not even a total ban, all they want is for the women to wear leggings or pants for safety measures.

Apparently, a week after Mike Knowles bought Dianne's, a Somali worker's long flowing burqa got caught in a boot washer. Nothing happened to the woman, but in order to prevent any future mishaps they decided to make some changes to the dress code: no "unconstrained cloth below the knees." Shouldn't be a big deal for the Somali women. After all, wearing pants doesn't show skin, and the pants needn't be skin tight. But no deal. They want to be able to wear their burqas, not pants or leggings under company issued skirts.

Shamso Ali is a female Somali Muslim who works at Dianne's factory. She told the Faribault Daily News that as she prepared to begin her shift Monday morning while wearing a burqa, a manager approached her and told her to go change.

"I could not believe it was happening," Ali said. "They asked, 'Will you go change your skirt?' I said, 'No, I cannot.' 'Well, then you need to leave,' they said."

Ali eventually joined 10 other Somali women and about 20 Somali men in walking off the job.

Asher Ali, leader of the Somali Community Center in Faribault, characterized the company-issued skirts as "extremely high, they are way up there... It's like something a model would wear."

Dianne's is complying with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission's dictates regarding accommodating the religious beliefs and practices of employees by allowing them to continue to wear the veil. All they are asking is for the women to not wear skirts below the knee, for the safety of all involved. And the company has every right to save itself from potential law suits if a worker gets into an accident.
Knowles, referring to the burqa-caught-in-boot washer incident, said, "when there's a safety incident like that you can't just ignore it... We addressed the safety issue by saying no skirts below the knee but that workers could wear slacks or pants and tuck them into their boots."

Regarding the 30 or so who walked off, Knowles said:

"People can't just walk off the job."

Which means they might not get to keep those jobs. Let's hope he doesn't cave, because I smell a CAIR lawsuit.

NOTE: They are actually referring to a niqab, not a burqa, since you can actually see their eyes.

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