McDonald’s hijab row: Teenager says apology ‘not enough’

  • 5 December 2017
  • From the section London

Woman wearing hijabImage copyright PETER STEFFEN

A woman has criticised McDonald’s after she was told to remove her hijab because it posed a “security threat”.

The 19-year-old Muslim student, who wants to remain anonymous, was approached by a security guard at a London branch of the fast food chain.

McDonald’s says it has suspended the security guard and is investigating the matter. It added that the restaurant was managed and owned by a franchisee.

But the student told BBC Asian Network “it’s not enough”.

“They basically said that the security guard was employed by a third-party company and so what they’re trying to say is, ‘We don’t condone his conduct but we can’t be held responsible because we’re not the people who hire them’.

“But if you’re going to use a separate company you need to be aware of what kind of policies they have, especially in a city like London.”

‘Hate crime’

The student was with her friend Sabrina at the Holloway Road restaurant in north London on 30 November.

In video footage recorded on her mobile phone, a black security guard can be heard saying: “If you just don’t mind taking it off,” to which the 19-year-old responds: “It’s not just a matter of taking it off, I wear it for religious reasons and I’m not ashamed of it.

“I live down the street,” she adds. “This is a hate crime.”

She told the BBC: “You would expect someone of colour to be more sympathetic to a minority that is persecuted.

“That just reflects how current this issue is – almost anyone could actually believe that I am a security threat.”

‘Peaceful life’

Sabrina shared the video on Twitter, and had an overwhelming response.

“A white British national… stood up for her,” said Sabrina.

“People on social media were praising the man who defended her.

“As a non-hijab wearing Muslim, I recognise my privilege in society.

“Discrimination that I might face isn’t necessarily as overt.

“For a quiet, peaceful life, I wouldn’t wear it.”

‘Deeply sorry’

But her friend said she would not be deterred from wearing the hijab.

“If you want to dress modestly, you should have the right to dress modestly and it shouldn’t be politicised,” said the 19-year-old.

“It’s my choice. If I want to cover my hair, I should have the right to cover my hair.”

McDonald’s chief executive Paul Pomroy said in a statement: “I am deeply sorry that this happened, and am taking the matter very seriously.

“We welcome people of all faiths and do not have any policy which restricts or prevents anyone wearing a hijab, or any other religious attire, in our restaurants.

“The restaurant involved is managed and owned by Amir Atefi, a franchisee.

“Mr Atefi is proud of his diverse workforce, and was upset and concerned to hear how one of his valued customers has been treated.”

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