A Muslim-owned arts-and-crafts store in Dearborn, Michigan is forcing its female Christian employees to wear traditional Islamic headscarves while on the job.
According to local reports, Khilāf Krafts began requiring its eight female employees to wear hijabs last week, following the U.S. Supreme Court’s 5-4 decision in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby, which gave religious rights to family-owned businesses.
Although five women working for the company are Muslims, the remaining three are practicing Christians. The company has threatened to fire any Christian woman who does not comply.
“My boss came in last Tuesday with a Koran in his hand and told us we were dressed like harlots,” says Karen Anderson, 28, a five year veteran of the company. “He gave us each a hijab and said if we didn’t wear it we’d be unemployed.
“I’m a strong believer in Jesus Christ. But my husband passed a few years ago and I need this job to support my kids. I don’t really have a choice. I have to wear it.”
The Supreme Court’s majority opinion in the Hobby Lobby case allowed the Christian-owned retail chain to opt out of a federal law requiring employers to give female employees contraceptive coverage.
Although praised by conservative Christians, liberals fret that the decision will allow companies with devout owners of any faith to opt out of American laws they simply don’t like.
In her dissent Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg expressed similar fears: “Approving some religious claims while deeming others unworthy of accommodation could be ‘perceived as favoring one religion over another,’ … The court, I fear, has ventured into a minefield.” she wrote.
Khilāf Krafts’ new policy has attracted outrage from women’s rights groups and Christian churches around the country. However, owner Khaleed El-Helani says he’s just a business owner practicing his faith.
“If Hobby Lobby can impose its religious beliefs on its employees, why can’t we?” he demands. “Are Christian business owners somehow more important than Muslim business owners?
“I read through the entire Supreme Court decision. I don’t really see what the problem is here. I’m a small, closely held business. I have devout religious beliefs. Why should I be forced to employ people if it violates my religion?”
El-Helani also says he plans on cutting off his employees’ hands if he catches them stealing, in accordance with Islamic law.
“This is what religious freedom looks like,” he explains. “Thanks John Roberts!”
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