Civil rights advocacy group says banks closed more accounts of Muslims

November 21, 2013 at 1:00 am

Civil rights advocacy group says banks closed more accounts of Muslims

  • Mark Hicks
  • The Detroit News

The Council on American-Islamic Relations–Michigan is asking federal officials to investigate more complaints that JPMorgan Chase is allegedly closing bank accounts of Muslim customers in Metro Detroit.

“It seems like it’s solidifying our idea more that there’s a disturbing pattern going on,” said Dawud Walid, executive director of CAIR-MI. “These aren’t just isolated incidents.”

Spurred by about a dozen complaints in the past two months, the advocacy group has contacted the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, which regulates banks, and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. CAIR-MI also received new complaints Thursday, Walid said.

One of the latest involved the checking and savings accounts for Annisa Patimurani, a Wayne State University graduate student.

The Indonesia native, who is married to an American and started attending WSU this year, said she applied and was approved without issue. But after weeks of local purchases for books and other necessities, her debit card suddenly stopped working last month, she said.

When Patimurani of Detroit visited her local Chase bank for answers, an employee told her the accounts had been closed. The explanation on file said the bank would not open one for people with ties to foreign officials, she said.

She later received a letter from Chase saying the bank is “no longer opening personal banking accounts for current or former non-U.S officials, their immediate family or their close associates.”

Patimurani was puzzled. When applying in person, wearing a hijab, she disclosed that her parents are retired Indonesian government officials, but was told this would not be an issue in securing accounts. “I just don’t understand why they need to discriminate against us,” Patimurani said.

A Chase representative said privacy reasons prevent the company from discussing details of its customer relationships. But “on occasion, Chase determines it can no longer maintain a customer’s account but those decisions are not based on the customer’s religion, ethnicity or any other similar basis.”

CAIR-MI asks people to report recent bank closures by calling (248) 559-2247 or emailing

Meanwhile, a ruling is expected soon on a lawsuit involving similar complaints against Huntington National Bank.

In July, the Arab-American Civil Rights League filed a class-action lawsuit against the bank after allegations accounts for area Muslims and residents of Middle Eastern descent were closed without cause or explanation.

According to the complaint filed in U.S. District Court, the bank’s actions suggest “racial, ethnic, national origin and religious discrimination,” which violate state and federal civil rights laws. Damages were estimated at millions of dollars, and the suit seeks a temporary restraining order barring Huntington from closing accounts for discriminatory reasons.

The civil rights league this year asked the U.S. Department of Justice to investigate and launched a complaint hotline.

Since then, more complaints — all from the minority group allegedly targeted — have frequently poured in, attorneys said.

While 25 are represented in the suit, as many as 1,000 or more in Metro Detroit could be affected by the alleged practices, said attorney Nabih Ayad, board chairman for the Arab-American Civil Rights League.

According to the complaint, a former Huntington employee has come forward with details on periodic lists bank superiors circulated instructing branches to close the accounts of customers perceived to be Muslim or of Middle Eastern descent.

But lawyers for Huntington Bank are asking a federal judge to have the case dismissed. In a motion filed last month, they said there was not sufficient evidence to support claims the bank discriminated against or treated them differently than other customers.

The attorneys representing the bank in the suit did not respond to requests for comment.

Kalamazoo’s example: Other cities should follow in anti-discrimination ordinances

JUL 23, 2013, 2:30 PM 

Kalamazoo’s example: Other cities should follow in anti-discrimination ordinances

Kalamazoo Township on Monday got it right when it unanimously voted in favor of an ordinance banning discrimination based on race, color, sex, age, religion, national origin, height, weight, marital status, familial status, citizenship, physical or mental ability, gender identity, sexual orientation or genetic information of another person.There are federal and state civil rights laws that penalize discrimination, except for gender identity and sexual orientation, so some may view this as overkill. It does, however, send a message that Kalamazoo is serious about having an inclusive community and is seeking to dispel the perception that western Michigan is inhospitable to minorities.

Moreover, given that Michigan has no law banning housing discrimination against the LGBT community (the  right to housing is a basic human right), the ordinance provides a small measure of recourse in addressing such bias.

Michigan was the only state in the last census to suffer population loss. In order to attract new investments for jobs and migration, our cities and townships need to exert maximum effort towards making our state looking like a more desirable place to live and do business.

Bravo to Kalamazoo. We need more municipalities to follow its example in Michigan.

CAIR: EEOC Complaint Filed Against Mich. McDonald’s Over Hijab

CAIR: EEOC Complaint Filed Against Mich. McDonald’s Over Hijab

(SOUTHFIELD, MI, 4/13/10) – The Michigan chapter
of the Council on American-Islamic Relations
(CAIR-MI) today filed an Equal Employment
Opportunity Commission (EEOC) complaint against a
McDonald’s restaurant in that state on behalf of
a Muslim who alleges denial of employment based on her ethnicity and religion.

The Muslim job applicant reported to CAIR-MI that
she recently applied for employment at a
McDonald’s restaurant in Rochester Hills,
Mich. During the interview, she alleges that one
of the restaurant managers asked about her
nationality and ethnicity and informed her that
wearing an Islamic head scarf, or hijab, would be a problem.

The applicant contacted the manager within a week
after the interview to inquire about possible
employment and was informed that someone else was
selected for the position. {NOTE: The restaurant
is in close proximity to one of the largest mosques in the state of Michigan.]

“We urge McDonald’s to take immediate action to
bring its hiring policies into compliance with
long-established legal guidelines on reasonable
religious accommodation in the workplace,” said
CAIR-MI Executive Director Dawud Walid.

He noted that in 2008, CAIR-MI raised concerns
with McDonald’s regarding two similar incidents
in which Muslim women alleged being denied employment because of hijab.

SEE: Women Claim McDonald’s Denies Jobs Due to Muslim Headscarves (USA Today)

Walid said Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of
1964 prohibits employers from discriminating
against individuals because of their religion in
hiring, firing and other terms and conditions of
employment. The act also requires employers to
reasonably accommodate the religious practices of
an employee, unless doing so would create an “undue hardship” for the employer.

In 2008, the EEOC issued new guidelines on
accommodating religious beliefs and practices in
the workplace. The guidelines offer protection
for workers who wear religious attire such as hijab.

SEE: New Religious Discrimination Manual Released (USA Today)

CAIR offers a booklet called “An Employer’s Guide
to Islamic Religious Practices” to help corporate
managers gain a better understanding of Islam and Muslims.

SEE: An Employer’s Guide to Islamic Religious Practices

CAIR is America’s largest Muslim civil liberties
and advocacy organization. Its mission is to
enhance the understanding of Islam, encourage
dialogue, protect civil liberties, empower
American Muslims, and build coalitions that
promote justice and mutual understanding.

– END –

More on alleged McDonalds discrimination in Dearborn

I was recently informed by an attorney that a third young lady stepped forward with the same allegations against the manager in question at the McDonalds off of Ford Rd near Schaefer in Dearborn, Michigan.

Perhaps a third lawsuit will be coming soon.


$10 million suit against McDonald’s
By Nick Meyer

DEARBORN — Two Muslim women from Detroit are jointly suing fast-food giant McDonald’s for $10 million for alleged acts of discrimination against them in the hiring process involving their rights to wear a hijab at work.

The suit, filed on their behalf by Dearborn lawyer and chairman of the Michigan Advisory Board for the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC), Nabih Ayad, with support from Dawud Walid, Executive Director of the Michigan chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), was announced at a press conference on Thursday, July 24. The conference was held in the parking lot where the new CVS store is being built next to the McDonald’s where the alleged incidents took place, on Ford Road near Schaefer Road in Dearborn. The restaurant serves halal chicken.

The two women are Toi Whitfield, a 20-year-old African American from Detroit, and Quiana Pugh, a 25-year-old African-American from Detroit. Both are Muslims and both claim to have been denied employment by McDonald’s because of their head scarves. The plaintiffs did not know each other prior to the lawsuit, but both ended up with attorney Ayad through a “friend-of-a-friend” type of situation, according to Ayad.

Whitfield applied for a position at the McDonald’s on Ford Road in November of 2006 and had the necessary background, ability and knowledge for the position, according to the text of the lawsuit. It also says that Pugh had the necessary qualifications when she applied in July of 2008 at the same location.

But the same manager, identified as John Doe in the lawsuit, refused to hire either of them “based on their religious beliefs and dress,” according to text of the lawsuit. They were both allegedly told that they do not hire Muslim women with hijabs and that is specifically the reason why both plaintiffs were not hired.

The manager also allegedly told both plaintiffs things such as “Well, you’re not going to work here if you don’t remove it (the scarf)” and that they “can’t really hire you due to your scarf.”

Ayad said that McDonalds’ corporate office was aware of the lawsuit and had 28 days to respond.

He also spoke about why the allegations were troubling to him and the plaintiffs.

“It’s disheartening because we have a large concentration of Muslims in Dearborn, yet they do this in our own backyard,” he said.

The suit claims both plaintiffs have sustained “injuries and damages including, but not limited to, loss of earnings and earning capacity, loss of career opportunities, humiliation and embarrassment, mental and emotional distress, and loss of ordinary pleasures of everyday life.”

Walid and CAIR released a statement in support of the plaintiffs as well.

“The filing of today’s lawsuit is one step in seeking to rectify the discriminatory environment at this specific McDonald’s location.

“While this particular matter is being resolved in the courts of law, we call upon McDonald’s to review its dress code policy and formally make provisions within to accommodate the religious attire of its current prospective employees.”

Phone calls placed to McDonald’s were not answered as of press time.

Muslim women seek $10 million from McDonalds regarding discrimination





2 women say they were denied jobs over


By Niraj Warikoo • Free Press Staff Writer • July 24, 2008

Two Muslim women said they were denied jobs at a McDonald’s restaurant in Dearborn because they wore Islamic headscarves, according to a discrimination lawsuit filed today in Wayne County Circuit Court.

Toi Whitfield, 20, of Detroit, and Quiana Pugh, 25, of Dearborn, said they applied for jobs at the McDonald’s on Ford Road in the eastern section of Dearborn, but were told by the store manager “you’re not going to work here if you don’t remove” the headscarf, known as hijab. According to the women, he also said he couldn’t “really hire you due to your scarf.”

A spokeswoman for McDonald’s did not immediately comment on the lawsuit, but said a statement would be coming soon.

The Dearborn restaurant happens to be one of only two stores in the U.S. that sells Chicken McNuggets that are halal, the Muslim equivalent of kosher.

Dawud Walid, head of the Michigan branch of the Council on American Islamic Relations, said that it’s upsetting that a restaurant with such a large Muslim customer base would discriminate against Muslim women employees.

“They’ll take Muslim dollars, but won’t hire Muslim female employees,” Walid said.

The case was filed in Detroit against the store manager, a management company, and McDonald’s. It alleges the restaurant violated a state civil rights law.

The store is located in an area with one of the largest Arab-American and Muslim communities in the U.S.

Walid said the two Muslim women were African-Americans born in the United States.


Dearborn McDonalds Faces Discrimination


Plaintiffs Ask For $10 Million In Damages

DEARBORN — A $10 million lawsuit was filed Thursday against a Dearborn McDonalds on the grounds they refused to hire two Muslim women because of their dress.


Toi Whitfield and Quiana Pugh said they were denied employment by the McDonalds on Ford Road because they wore a hijab, a traditional Muslim head covering.


Both women said it was the same manager who refused to hire them, and that the discrimination has been happening for years.

Muslim sues Detroit Medical Center (DMC)


DMC employee’s lawsuit alleges religious harassment

Catherine Jun / The Detroit News

SOUTHFIELD — A fired Muslim employee has filed a lawsuit against the Detroit Medical Center alleging religious and ethnic harassment before being unlawfully terminated.

The announcement was made this morning at the Michigan office of the Council on American-Islamic Relations in Southfield this morning.

According to the suit, Yasser Sharif, 36, of Macomb Township was employed as a specialist in the poison control center at the Children’s Hospital of Michigan since 2004 and fired last November after alerting management to scheduling abuses in his department.

During his employment, Sharif was subjected to “Islama-phobic” and “anti-Arab” comments by other employees, alleged Dawud Walid, executive director of Michigan CAIR. (MORE)