Muslim mom files formal complaint alleging McDonald’s employees stuffed sandwich with bacon

A Muslim woman says that workers at a western Massachusetts McDonald’s restaurant intentionally included bacon in a fish sandwich despite her definitive instructions otherwise.

The Council on American-Islamic Relations lodged the complaint for anti-Islam bias on or about April 20 with the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination against the store in the city of Chicopee on behalf of the customer. The actual incident dates back to June 29, 2021.

In general, a complaint with a state civil rights agency is typically a prerequisite for a discrimination lawsuit, if that ever becomes necessary.

According to the complaint,  employees “intentionally and maliciously discriminated against a Muslim woman and her two young children by adding bacon to a fish sandwich despite her explicit request for a plain sandwich, charging her for the bacon she had not ordered, and then, to make matters even worse, adding three to four times the amount of bacon that would normally be provided when a customer requests it.”

“It is commonly known that Islam forbids Muslims from eating pork. McDonald’s employees willfully added bacon to the Complainant’s food in an effort to offend, humiliate, and cause distress to Complainant and her young children,” the legal paperwork added.

The complaint goes on to allege that both the woman and her son emphasized to the staff that the purchase was for a plain fish sandwich. They also allegedly had to wait around while other customers received their orders first.

After she received and paid for her order, and was at the time unaware that she was charged for the unwanted extras, she and her seven-year-twins reportedly walked to a nearby school playground where they discovered that the sandwich contained three to four bacon strips.

McDonald’s allegedly only charged her for two half-strips of bacon.

“She told her son not to eat the sandwich. When [the son] complained that he was hungry, Complainant reluctantly gave him the bottom bun and the lower part of the fish filet,” the complaint noted.

Later that evening, her husband returned to the McDonald’s outlet with the remains of the sandwich in its original wrapper and obtained a full refund, which included the overcharge for the bacon.

According to the store manager, the cash register touch screen has separate buttons for a plain sandwich and a sandwich with added bacon, making the order error unlikely.

“McDonald’s employees discriminated against Complainant on the basis of her religion (Islam) and national origin (Yemeni) by willfully and maliciously adding bacon to her food despite explicit requests by Complainant and her son for a plain sandwich, charging her for bacon she had not ordered, and adding an excessive quantity of bacon beyond McDonald’s standard practices,” the CAIR complaint concluded, citing the relevant state statute, Section 98 of Chapter 272 of the Massachusetts general laws.

Both store receipts and a picture of the offensive, bacon-containing sandwich were attached to the complaint as exhibits.

In a statement published by CAIR on its website, complainant Ghadir Alahmar said “McDonald’s made my children and me feel unwanted and worthless by intentionally stuffing a fish sandwich full of bacon for no other reason than to punish us for our faith and religious convictions. This really hurt us. My children now wonder if they are welcome in their own country. They ask me, ‘Do they hate us?’ How is a mother supposed to answer that question?”

According to CAIR, Alahmar “is visibly Muslim, as she wears a hijab, or Islamic headscarf, and abaya, a long Islamic dress.”

Barbara J. Dougan, CAIR Massachusetts legal director, and the attorney filing the complaint, assessed the situation in a statement as follows:

“Anti-Muslim bias takes many forms. But you can’t go much lower than tampering with the food of a young child. We hope that McDonald’s will find these actions as appalling as we do, and take all needed measures to ensure that something like this never happens again at the Chicopee store or any other location. Religious discrimination at a place of public accommodation is not only illegal, but also morally reprehensible.”

As of Wednesday, neither the fast-food franchise’s corporate officers nor the local owner have responded to media requests for comment, according to the Associated Press.

As required with any legal complaint, regardless of the subject matter, McDonald’s will have the opportunity to respond in writing with its side of the story. In general, customer service is not entirely emblematic at many fast-food outlets.

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