A Muslim housewife says her civil rights were violated when a security guard forced her to leave a shopping mall when she refused to take her religious headscarf off.
The Council on American-Islamic Relations, a Washington-based Muslim civil liberties group, made the incident public Friday. The group has asked the FBI and Louisiana officials to investigate the Feb. 22 incident. The woman and her family, U.S. citizens of Palestinian heritage, are considering legal action.
The incident involves Muntaha Sarsour, 54, and her daughter-in-law, Sajehed Judeh, 23. The two women had just bought chicken fillet take-out at the mall food court when an Oakwood Shopping Center security guard allegedly stopped Sarsour and told her to remove her headscarf. The mall is in Gretna, a culturally diverse suburb of New Orleans.
“He told her she had two options: Either she take off her headscarf or leave the mall,” said Judeh, speaking on behalf of her mother-in-law, who does not speak English well.
Judeh said she then confronted the guard and told him a Muslim in a headscarf “shouldn’t be new to you.”
When the guard did not answer, Judeh said, “I then told him that was the most ignorant thing I had heard and he said the way I was acting was ignorant.”
The mall’s senior general manager, Lynn Walters, said steps are being made to make sure “this type of occurrence never happens again.” . . .
The FBI is looking into the incident, said FBI spokeswoman Sheila Thorne.
The security guard was hired and trained by AlliedBarton Security Services, a national powerhouse in the private security business, Walters said.
AlliedBarton did not immediately return telephone calls seeking comment.
Ibrahim Hooper, a Council on American-Islamic Relations spokesman, said the case opened unprecedented legal questions about hijabs, Muslim woman’s head covering.
In the past, he said, Muslim women have challenged orders to remove their hijabs by employers and upon being photographed for driver’s licenses.
“This is the first time I’ve seen something this egregious,” Hooper said. “This was not only humiliating, there may have been criminal, civil rights violations in this incident.” (MORE)