Washington Report on Middle East Affairs, October 1996, p. 56

Muslim-American Activism

AMC Recognizes First Muslim Chaplain in Navy

The American Muslim Council honored the first Islamic chaplain to serve in the United States Navy, at a ceremony held Aug. 8. Lieutenant Junior Grade Monje Malak Abd al-Muta Ali Noel, Jr., became the second Muslim to be commissioned as a member of the Military Chaplains Corps. The Army appointed the first Islamic chaplain in 1993.

AMC Executive Director Abdurahman Alamoudi said Chaplain Noel is playing a “vital role” in serving the Muslim men and women in the armed forces. Since the Gulf war, the AMC estimates that the number of Muslims in the armed forces has grown to at least 10,000. “The need for dedicated Muslim chaplains who can serve this community is a pressing one,” Alamoudi said.

Prior to his commission as chaplain, Noel’s duty stations included tours on board the USSMidway, the USS Saratoga and the USS John F. Kennedy. He has been awarded the Navy Achievement Medal, Combat Action Ribbon, Navy Unit Commendation Ribbon and the Navy Meritorious Unit Commendation, among other honors.

A native of Salem, NJ, Chaplain Noel earned a bachelor’s degree from Wilmington College in business administration and has recently completed a master of divinity program at the American Islamic College in Chicago. He is married with three children.

Alamoudi said that Noel’s appointment was aided by the long-standing efforts of the AMC’s Office of Armed Forces and Veterans Affairs to ensure that the United States is meeting the needs of Muslims in the military.

—Geoff Lumetta

 

CAIR Attacks “Islamophobia” at Virginia JC Penney

In the second such case in six months, the Council on American-Islamic Relations has won concessions from a company that apparently fired a Muslim woman for wearing a head scarf. The most recent case involved a Virginia woman who claimed she was told to leave her position at a JC Penney outlet store after she refused to remove her hijab.

According to the fired worker, the personnel manager of JC Penney Tyson’s Corner Center, in McLean, VA, told her to “clock out now” when she refused to remove her scarf. The woman also said the manager told her, “You have to make a decision whether you want to keep this job. You have to take off your scarf or leave.”

CAIR said this policy was reiterated in a meeting between the personnel manager, the store’s general manager, the fired worker and another Muslim employee. CAIR claimed that restricting the use of her religiously mandated head scarf violated her constitutional right to practice her religion and that such a policy is discriminatory against Muslims.

In a written statement to CAIR, JC Penney said it regretted the incident and the store’s response did not “accurately reflect” JC Penney policy. JC Penney also offered the woman her job back and confirmed that she may wear her head scarf while on duty. The company also refuted the woman’s claim that she was fired.

In a news conference held outside the JC Penney store in Virginia, CAIR said the company’s response was “welcome” but it did not address the suffering caused by the discrimination of the fired woman. “While the concessions ...move this case in the right direction, more needs to be done,” a CAIR spokesman said. “The day is long past when a simple apology will fully address the Muslim concerns on this important issue.”

CAIR said it is requesting that the company clarify its policies regarding religiously required dress and that this policy be distributed to all store personnel. It is also asking back wages for the fired employee, attorney’s fees and “monetary compensation for emotional distress.”

The Muslim-American group took similar action in April when another Virginia woman was fired for wearing a head scarf at the Quality Inn Governor in Falls Church, VA. This woman also was re-hired after CAIR intervention. CAIR said it hopes to eliminate the anti-Muslim sentiment or “Islamophobia” that exists in many American companies.

“This discrimination is a symptom of a greater problem both at JC Penney and in personnel departments in corporations across America,” CAIR said. “Muslim women are a growing segment of the nation’s work force. They come from many different backgrounds and they offer many valuable skills. To deny them the opportunity to contribute to the society hurts all Americans.”

CAIR added that companies that continue to discriminate against Muslim-Americans will suffer “real business consequences” because they will lose this growing segment of the American market.

Geoff Lumetta

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