(WASHINGTON, D.C., 3/9/09) – A prominent national Islamic civil rights and advocacy group today challenged a “separate but equal” Navy Federal Credit Union (NFCU) policy that treats customers wearing religious head coverings differently than other customers.
The Washington-based Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) said a Muslim customer at an NFCU branch in California, Md., reported that she was singled out twice by bank officials because of her religiously-mandated head scarf, or hijab.
In February, the Muslim customer, who has been banking with NFCU since 1992, was removed from the waiting line and taken to a back office to complete her transaction. She was reportedly told that she would have to conduct her business in a separate area every time she came to the bank.
On March 7th, the Muslim customer was again asked to step out of line but left the bank after refusing to complete her transaction in a back office.
Last month, Virginia-based NFCU told CAIR that it would remind employees that the bank’s new “no hats, hoods and sunglasses” policy does not prohibit Muslim customers or staff from wearing hijabs. The reminder came after a Muslim NFCU customer was denied service at a branch in San Diego, Calif., despite telling bank officials that she wears her head scarf for religious reasons. NFCU offered that Muslim customer a personal apology.
SEE: Muslim Woman Denied Service Over Head Scarf to Get Apology (Union-Tribune)
SEE ALSO: Calif. Muslim Claims Bank Singled Her Out for Head Scarf
At the time of the California incident, a CAIR spokesman said the new NFCU policy “is far too vague and will inevitably lead to a reoccurrence of such discriminatory incidents.”
“Navy Federal’s policy on head coverings clearly forces bank employees to impose a ‘separate but equal’ status not only on Muslim women who wear hijab, but on all those who wear religious attire,” said CAIR Communications Coordinator Amina Rubin in response to the latest NFCU incident.
She said this and other incidents are apparently the result of “no hats” policies being implemented in banks nationwide. “The banking industry needs to come up with a standard policy based not only on security needs, but also on the religious and civil rights of customers.”
SEE: ‘No Hats, No Hoods, No Sunglasses’
Rubin cited another case in California in which a bank had to issue a formal apology to a Muslim customer who was denied service because she wears hijab.
SEE: Oakland Bank Apologizes to Muslim Woman Denied Service
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, America’s largest Islamic civil liberties and advocacy group has 35 offices and chapters nationwide and in Canada. 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.
CONTACT: CAIR National Communications Director Ibrahim Hooper, 202-488-8787, E-Mail: firstname.lastname@example.org; CAIR Communications Coordinator Amina Rubin, 202-488-8787, E-Mail: email@example.com