SADDLE BROOK, N.J. (PIX11) — Naima Mnasri has worn a hijab, a traditional Muslim head scarf, since she was 12-year- old. She is now 44. Never, in her 25 years of living in the United States, has she ever been asked to remove it, until now.
“It’s upsetting. I was upset. I know I live in this country. The constitution protects my rights. I even told him that I have rights in this country and I’m going to pursue my rights,” said Mnasri.
On her second day of work at Paradigm Packaging in Saddle Brook, N.J., Mnasri said she was pulled aside by one of her managers and told to take her hijab off or leave.
“He said, ‘ma’am either you take that off, meaning the hijab, or you go home.’ I told him it’s part of my religion. I cannot take it off,” explained Mnasri.
Paradigm Packaging, Inc. manufacturers plastic bottles for pills and vitamins. PIX11 asked Mnasri if her hijab could have been a safety hazard and if she was around any large machinery, but she said absolutely not. PIX11 reached out to Paradigm, but received no response.
Mohamed El Filali is the executive director for New Jersey’s Chapter of the Council for American and Islamic Relations, which is the group who filed a complaint on Mnasri’s behalf with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.
El Filali says despite New Jersey’s population of about 200,000 Muslims, in 2013 alone the organization has fought 8 other cases similar to Mnasri’s.