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Suit: McDonald's served up harassment

Muslim says she was targeted because of her headscarf.

By Matt Birkbeck

 

Of The Morning Call

 

July 11, 2008

 

www.mcall.com/news/local/all-b1_5muslim-r.6498962jul11,0,98907.story

 

themorningcall.com

 

 

 

A Breinigsville woman who says she was denied service at a McDonald's in Whitehall Township because she is a Muslim filed a federal lawsuit Thursday, claiming her civil rights were violated.

 

Tanveer Walli alleges that a manager at the restaurant, which is in the Wal-Mart off MacArthur Road, behaved rudely and refused to serve her because of her Islamic headscarf, or hijab.

 

The Aug. 10, 2007, incident upset Walli so much that she cries uncontrollably, can't nurse her newborn son and couldn't celebrate her wedding anniversary, according to the complaint.

 

The suit, which also lists a Wal-Mart assistant manager as well as McDonald's and Wal-Mart as defendants, is the second filed against Pany Enterprises, which operates the McDonald's.

 

A similar federal suit, filed in May 2007, alleges that employees at the McDonald's that used to be in the Lehigh Valley Mall and was also operated by Pany Enterprises harassed a Muslim family from Maryland.

 

Walli's attorney, Jordan Yeager of Doylestown, said the similarities are too close to ignore.

 

''This case involves the same franchise owner from another case in which a gentleman and his family were harassed with the same rudeness, with employees telling them to go back to Iraq,'' said Yeager, who also filed the 2007 suit.

 

Franchisee Joe Pany said in a written statement issued by a McDonald's Corp. spokeswoman: ''I take this matter very seriously. I value all of my customers with no regard to race, gender or national origin. Because this matter is currently ongoing litigation, it would be inappropriate for me to comment further at this time.''

 

A Wal-Mart spokesman wasn't available to comment.

 

According to Walli's suit:

 

She was harassed by the unidentified McDonald's manager, a woman, after moving a chair from the top of an unoccupied table so her mother could sit. Told by the manager that she couldn't sit there, Walli apologized and moved to the counter to give her order, but the manager told her she wouldn't be served.

 

Subjected to ''snickering'' from the staff, Walli asked the employees if ''being a Muslim had anything to do with me ordering food?'' A Wal-Mart assistant manager, Tommy Jones, intervened. But when Walli told him she wasn't being served because she was a Muslim, Jones told her, ''There's nothing anyone can do, so you can leave.''

 

As Walli left the store, another customer tugged on her hijab and said, ''This is why you didn't get served.''

 

In the 2007 suit, Fahed Al-Araj and his wife, Pauline Andoniah, say they were treated rudely by staff at the former Lehigh Valley Mall McDonald's. Al-Araj claims he and his family were told, ''Get the hell out of here. We don't want people like you here.'' Two mall security guards removed them from the restaurant, according to that suit, which is still pending.

 

Copyright 2008, The Morning Call

 

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