Abercrombie & Fitch: Is The Religious Practice Sexy Enough to Protect?

So Abercrombie & Fitch is at it again or I should say has been at it for a abercrombie_hijab_0921.jpgwhile-practicing bias against those who dont look the part of mainstream White American society. In Tulsa, Oklahoma, a college age Muslim girl who wears a hijab is filing suit against the retail store for not hiring her because she would violate the Look Policy.

What is Abercrombie & Fitchs Look Policy? The policy jargon aside, the bottom-line for this retail store is that hijabs arent sexy because mainstream White America doesnt view them that way and only sex sells.

Now of course Abercrombie & Fitch will not outright say that; though I am sure they will fight to preserve this status quo through legal, objective and logical means. It also seems like the very legal right that is supposed to protect religious freedom will be used to defend Abercrombies stance. Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits religious discrimination. The 197 amendment to Title VII defines religion to,

include all aspects of religious observance and practice, as well as belief, unless an employer demonstrates that he is unable to reasonably accommodate an employees or perspective employees religious observance or practice without undue hardship on the conduct of the employers business.

Thus, undue hardship is the bottom line. For a retail store the primary undue hardship is sales in a bad economy. If hijabs arent sexy enough to make sales then Abercrombie & Fitch doesnt have to make the accommodation. And, unfortunately, this undue hardship argument wins the case for businesses over and over again.

Its in these cases that I see how the ultimate rule of the land-the law, is used to show how our moral value of protecting the right to religious freedom is overridden by our more dominant belief in the power of money and the influence of those who have access to use it. In this Tulsa case, its most likely that mainstream White American society will determine our moral stance on hijabs. Until they believe that something is sexy it wont be worth protecting it. However, I fear what it means for something to be sexy for White American society. Often I have seen it mean co-opting religious/cultural items and diluting them of their genuine significance. Yes, through this co-option the religious/cultural items gain more attention by becoming less threatening. But is that the goal-to be less threatening by diluting the significance of the religious/cultural item? The significance of the hijab is not hypersexuality but to show beauty through modesty. If the significance of the hijab is juxtaposed to what it means to be sexy in mainstream White American society, then how do we intend to protect religious freedom in retail stores like Abercrombie & Fitch? Or is this moral stance even our main priority?


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27 Responses to “Abercrombie & Fitch: Is The Religious Practice Sexy Enough to Protect?”

  1. GulabSinghZaildar says:

    Abercrombie's whole collection is based on the concept of young uber-hip-jock-yuppies. It would be really odd if I walked into one of their stores and a lady with a burkah was greeting me and trying to sell their clothes. It's disingenuous, and just doesn't fit with the whole Abercrombie image. There's nothing racist or untoward in this. This muslim girl should seek employment elsewhere. Maybe go to a brand like "Mecca" or "Sean John" where her demeanor would be more applicable. It really irks the hell out of me that these Muslim Americans complain 247 about their rights being violated by the Govt, by Corporations, or by the Patriot Act etc. The fact is that if I, as a visible Sikh man, lived in one of their countries I would NOT be afforded any of the same rights!!! Isn't that ironic? The very same Muslims who complain that their rights are violated in the US, would not even recognize me as an equal in their "home" countries. I'd be a "kaffir/infidel", and nothing more. Don't believe me? Go to Riyadh or Peshawar and see how "Freedom of Religion" works………

    [Cue the "We're not the same as them!" and "What about the Sikh turban?" arguments.]

    Of course religion shouldn't play a part in the hiring process, but at the end of the day – we live in America. A land where marketing and corporate image are the pillars of a corporation's success. As Sikhs, let's use this to our advantage by breaking down barriers of ignorance and bigotry through MERIT and education – not complaining (like the muslim girl in the above referenced article) that our faith is under attack whenever we get a job rejection.

  2. Nav says:

    I agree with the person aboce. A and F hire all sorts of races and the people that model in their commercials are actually store employees. So Burkah is not a part of their accessory collection- big whoop go look for a job elsewhere.

  3. Kamal says:

    I agreee with gulab singh, forget working there why would u even buy their clothes. i stopped 4 yrs ago after realizing there were so many better places to shop at, honestly i dont even see that many white ppl wearing abercrombie anymore

  4. GulabSinghZaildar says:

    Abercrombie's whole collection is based on the concept of young uber-hip-jock-yuppies. It would be really odd if I walked into one of their stores and a lady with a burkah was greeting me and trying to sell their clothes. It's disingenuous, and just doesn't fit with the whole Abercrombie image. There's nothing racist or untoward in this. This muslim girl should seek employment elsewhere. Maybe go to a brand like "Mecca" or "Sean John" where her demeanor would be more applicable. It really irks the hell out of me that these Muslim Americans complain 247 about their rights being violated by the Govt, by Corporations, or by the Patriot Act etc. The fact is that if I, as a visible Sikh man, lived in one of their countries I would NOT be afforded any of the same rights!!! Isn't that ironic? The very same Muslims who complain that their rights are violated in the US, would not even recognize me as an equal in their "home" countries. I'd be a "kaffir/infidel", and nothing more. Don't believe me? Go to Riyadh or Peshawar and see how "Freedom of Religion" works………

    [Cue the "We're not the same as them!" and "What about the Sikh turban?" arguments.]

    Of course religion shouldn't play a part in the hiring process, but at the end of the day – we live in America. A land where marketing and corporate image are the pillars of a corporation's success. As Sikhs, let's use this to our advantage by breaking down barriers of ignorance and bigotry through MERIT and education – not complaining (like the muslim girl in the above referenced article) that our faith is under attack whenever we get a job rejection.

  5. Nav says:

    I agree with the person aboce. A and F hire all sorts of races and the people that model in their commercials are actually store employees. So Burkah is not a part of their accessory collection- big whoop go look for a job elsewhere.

  6. Kamal says:

    I agreee with gulab singh, forget working there why would u even buy their clothes. i stopped 4 yrs ago after realizing there were so many better places to shop at, honestly i dont even see that many white ppl wearing abercrombie anymore

  7. Sad, isn't it. But what can you expect in this situation?

  8. Sad, isn’t it. But what can you expect in this situation?

  9. Roger Mangat says:

    I agree with all of the readers .A muslim woman wears hejab to be modest,and not to flaunt her beauty so that men would not be enticed.So why in doggone allahs name would she seek employment in an establishment,that according to her sells sexy looks.See the dichotomy.On a personal level she hides her face coz she is [edited]. (Please refrain from using such language –Admin)

  10. Roger Mangat says:

    I agree with all of the readers .A muslim woman wears hejab to be modest,and not to flaunt her beauty so that men would not be enticed.So why in doggone allahs name would she seek employment in an establishment,that according to her sells sexy looks.See the dichotomy.On a personal level she hides her face coz she is [edited]. (Please refrain from using such language –Admin)

  11. Tajinder says:

    Although I do not shop at the the store, I have passed by it and have gone into it by accident. I do not think this is in anyway more or less then a discrimination which is towards non-turbaned males from the Sikh communities who are not allowed to hold positions in the Sikh Gurudwaras. These people have a brand name and a obligation to keep its image. Like the post above there are multiple ethnic people who work at these stores, as long as they do match the image. In fact just two weeks ago my brother in-law as turned down because neck down he fits the image but neck up, he did not apparently they do not accept people with mow-hawks.

  12. Tajinder says:

    Although I do not shop at the the store, I have passed by it and have gone into it by accident. I do not think this is in anyway more or less then a discrimination which is towards non-turbaned males from the Sikh communities who are not allowed to hold positions in the Sikh Gurudwaras. These people have a brand name and a obligation to keep its image. Like the post above there are multiple ethnic people who work at these stores, as long as they do match the image. In fact just two weeks ago my brother in-law as turned down because neck down he fits the image but neck up, he did not apparently they do not accept people with mow-hawks.

  13. sikh soldier says:

    Well all you forget that these stores probally would not hire a turbaned sikh. What about that?

    As far as the poster above saying that non turbaned males cannot hold positions in gurdawara, thats a bit different. Gurdawaras are not retail stores. If you are so worried about the gurdawara, wear a pug.

  14. Sanehwal says:

    @sikh soldier, An Abercrombie store in San Jose hired a turbaned Sikh who has an open dhari.

  15. sikh soldier says:

    Well all you forget that these stores probally would not hire a turbaned sikh. What about that?

    As far as the poster above saying that non turbaned males cannot hold positions in gurdawara, thats a bit different. Gurdawaras are not retail stores. If you are so worried about the gurdawara, wear a pug.

  16. Sanehwal says:

    @sikh soldier, An Abercrombie store in San Jose hired a turbaned Sikh who has an open dhari.

  17. Tajinder says:

    "If you are so worried about the gurdawara, wear a pug. " This is what I was talking about. No where does it in any way say if you want to serve a community that you have to have a particular image through clothing, you just have to be a person who is willing to put others needs ahead of your own.

    Lets just say these stores did not hire a turbaned Sikh. Are they really discriminating or are they just trying to protect their image which they have spent millions on to produce and implement in American society? What is a turbaned Sikh doing looking for a job at a placed where they display half naked images of men and women? Why does a head covered Muslim girl and a turbaned Sikh male want to be working at a business which promotes a pro-gay image, scantly dressing for women which is completely opposite to these peoples beliefs. Are they just hypocrites like the turbaned Sikh who sued the bar/pub sometime back for not letting him in?

  18. Tajinder says:

    "If you are so worried about the gurdawara, wear a pug. " This is what I was talking about. No where does it in any way say if you want to serve a community that you have to have a particular image through clothing, you just have to be a person who is willing to put others needs ahead of your own.

    Lets just say these stores did not hire a turbaned Sikh. Are they really discriminating or are they just trying to protect their image which they have spent millions on to produce and implement in American society? What is a turbaned Sikh doing looking for a job at a placed where they display half naked images of men and women? Why does a head covered Muslim girl and a turbaned Sikh male want to be working at a business which promotes a pro-gay image, scantly dressing for women which is completely opposite to these peoples beliefs. Are they just hypocrites like the turbaned Sikh who sued the bar/pub sometime back for not letting him in?

  19. Tajinder says:

    The point I am trying to make is simply as a community we need to be a community who thinks things through like a educated person, not someone who reacts to the moment. Discrimination does exist in every community throughout the world this is a fact. What we need to understand there are educated steps we can all take towards distinguishing what is discrimination and what is not. Just the other day a fellow employee who is a Caucasian male was talking about how he has to do so much work to grease up his BBQ grill so the chicken won't stick. But before he started the conversation he asked me if I was going to be offended if he talked about a meat topic thinking I was a vegetarian (I am not). I would consider myself a out right money hungry weasel of a person if I am going to be offended by such a conversation and take this person to HR or court even if I was a vegetarian. Given the management level this person has been at in the past I am sure the company has been sued over such a ridiculous matter. This is not discrimination, now say he had a big sign on the table we were sitting on saying no Sikhs allowed now we have problem. A&F is not going to that extent. By the way when any business of this magnitude opens in a specific location they first study the demographics to figure out what type of merchandise from their stock will be suite that area. So do you seriously think a Sikh Sardar applying in Union City, Yuba City, Surrey BC etc. given he fits the image would not get hired?

  20. Tajinder says:

    The point I am trying to make is simply as a community we need to be a community who thinks things through like a educated person, not someone who reacts to the moment. Discrimination does exist in every community throughout the world this is a fact. What we need to understand there are educated steps we can all take towards distinguishing what is discrimination and what is not. Just the other day a fellow employee who is a Caucasian male was talking about how he has to do so much work to grease up his BBQ grill so the chicken won't stick. But before he started the conversation he asked me if I was going to be offended if he talked about a meat topic thinking I was a vegetarian (I am not). I would consider myself a out right money hungry weasel of a person if I am going to be offended by such a conversation and take this person to HR or court even if I was a vegetarian. Given the management level this person has been at in the past I am sure the company has been sued over such a ridiculous matter. This is not discrimination, now say he had a big sign on the table we were sitting on saying no Sikhs allowed now we have problem. A&F is not going to that extent. By the way when any business of this magnitude opens in a specific location they first study the demographics to figure out what type of merchandise from their stock will be suite that area. So do you seriously think a Sikh Sardar applying in Union City, Yuba City, Surrey BC etc. given he fits the image would not get hired?

  21. sonny says:

    "As Sikhs, let's use this to our advantage by breaking down barriers of ignorance and bigotry through MERIT and education – not complaining (like the muslim girl in the above referenced article) that our faith is under attack whenever we get a job rejection."
    seriously? can't we do better than this and start realizing that the plight of muslims and arabs against discrimination in this country is inherently connected to our own struggles as sikhs? use discrimination of muslims to our advantage? when we are under attack or when any other faith or community is under attack, it is our responsibility of sikhs to take action and support whoever is facing injustice. sarbat da bhalla.

    on another note, abercrombie has a longstanding history of perpetuating racism. some might remember their line of t-shirts in 2001/02 that portrayed asians in stereotypical, demeaning ways…http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?file=/c

  22. sonny says:

    "As Sikhs, let's use this to our advantage by breaking down barriers of ignorance and bigotry through MERIT and education – not complaining (like the muslim girl in the above referenced article) that our faith is under attack whenever we get a job rejection."
    seriously? can't we do better than this and start realizing that the plight of muslims and arabs against discrimination in this country is inherently connected to our own struggles as sikhs? use discrimination of muslims to our advantage? when we are under attack or when any other faith or community is under attack, it is our responsibility of sikhs to take action and support whoever is facing injustice. sarbat da bhalla.

    on another note, abercrombie has a longstanding history of perpetuating racism. some might remember their line of t-shirts in 2001/02 that portrayed asians in stereotypical, demeaning ways…http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?file=/c

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