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Mattress Firm refuses to sell to Muslim woman

16 April 2011 General 18 Comments Email This Post Email This Post

BY JESSE BOGAN jbogan@post-dispatch.com

MANCHESTER • Syeeda Hussaini has suffered from neck pain the past few years, to the extent that it’s difficult for her to drive and get a good night’s rest.

So on a recent weekend, she, her husband, and their three kids loaded up the car and drove less than a mile to Mattress Firm. Her husband, Mohammad, encouraged her to lie on different beds to see which one felt best.

She said the store manager approached, but oddly didn’t want to help. He told the family that he wouldn’t sell them a mattress for security reasons, she said.

Hussaini, 27, who is Muslim, covers all but her hands, feet and eyes in public to show respect for femininity and her religion. She said the manager told her she needed to show her face for service. Mohammad, a pathology resident at Barnes-Jewish Hospital, tried to explain that his wife dressed this way to be modest, much like Catholic nuns. But the manager stomped off, they say.

Hussaini wrote a letter to a regional representative of the company after the March 12 visit to the store. An official at Mattress Firm headquarters in Houston said the company “has a zero tolerance policy on racial and religious profiling.” Spokeswoman Sunni Goodman would not comment specifically about the manager, but she confirmed the encounter happened.

“As soon as we were informed of the incident, we took appropriate action to address the situation,” she said.

The manager no longer works for Mattress Firm.

Other retailers at the shopping plaza on Highlands Boulevard Drive in Manchester said it’s not unusual to see women fully covered. The Dar Ul Islam mosque, the most established of about a dozen mosques in the St. Louis area, is just a few miles away.

There have been other recent complaints in the region. Advocates said emotions are running high since a Muslim community center was proposed near ground zero in New York and since a Florida pastor burned a Quran, the holy book of the Islamic faith.

“It’s harder to be a Muslim in the United States now than at any time since 9/11,” said James Hacking III, a lawyer and head of the Muslim task force of the American Civil Liberties Union of Eastern Missouri.

“With more Muslims being a part of society, there is going to be more interaction,” he said. “A small minority of people don’t like having Muslims around. For the most part, Muslims live side-by-side with their neighbors without incident.”

Sometimes complaints are settled easily, he said. For instance, a misunderstanding in March involving an employee at a high-end hotel in Clayton was told to shave off his beard. The company made an exception to its policy on facial hair after it was explained that the employee wore a beard for religious reasons.

Other incidents seem more serious. On Monday, two of Hacking’s Muslim clients filed a lawsuit in St. Louis County against Bankers Life and Casualty Co., and Daniel Colvis, a branch manager in Chesterfield, alleging violations of the Missouri Human Rights Act.

Ali Badran and Warrad Warrad of Florissant, who were sales agents at the life and health insurance company, claim that Colvis “repeatedly made disparaging and defamatory comments” about their race, religion and ethnicity in front of other employees. Colvis is accused of making hostile comments to the plaintiffs including, “please don’t blow yourselves up.” He allegedly told Warrad to shave off a neatly trimmed beard and asked both of them if they were related to Osama Bin Laden and if they danced on 9/11.

Colvis fired Badran in 2009 and Warrad in 2010, even though they had stronger sales histories than non-Muslim agents, according to the lawsuit.

At his office Friday, Colvis declined to comment on the lawsuit through an assistant and forwarded inquiries to the company’s corporate headquarters in Chicago.

“We believe the lawsuit is without merit, and we intend to defend it vigorously,” said spokeswoman Barbara Ciesemier, declining to respond to follow-up questions.

Last Sunday, a threatening note and three burned Qurans were reported at a mosque in Springfield, Mo., that was vandalized in January.

“A lot of this is generated by Internet hate,” said Ibrahim Hooper, spokesman for the Council On American-Islamic Relations in Washington.

Asked about the Springfield incident and others, Pamela Geller, executive director of Stop The Islamization of America, wrote in an email: “Many recent incidents of this nature have been perpetrated by Muslims.” She added, “I condemn all acts of stupidity, but let’s get the facts first.”

Clothing in particular has been in the spotlight this week. A new law in France took effect Monday forbidding women to cover their faces in public. Women reportedly risk a $200 fine; males face a $43,000 fine if they force women to wear a veil.

Hussaini, of Manchester, said she wants to be covered and is thankful to have the opportunity to do so in the United States. She dons an abaya, or full-length outer gown; hijab, or head scarf; and niqab, or veil.

She admits that kids can be startled by her appearance in public. “Mommy, there’s a monster,” is one comment she has heard. But she said some mothers ask Hussaini to explain to their children why she wears what she does.

She eventually found a mattress, but not an apology.

Goodman, the company spokeswoman, said a regional salesman followed up with the Hussaini family a couple weeks ago to apologize and invite them back to the store. Syeeda Hussaini said that has not occurred.

Shaken after the visit to Mattress Firm in March, the Hussaini family went to another company in Brentwood, then another in Manchester.

“They let me try out all the beds and they were fine,” she said.

She ended up buying her mattress online.

Original post: Mattress Firm refuses to sell to Muslim woman

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18 Comments »

  1. Just curious, how do women handle the situation when they enter a bank or various stores that have rules against covering the face when entering? This is done to prevent robbery and to get images on film so people can be caught if they do rob the store.

  2. There was a local case where a masked man went into a credit union and shot two people in an attempted robbery attempt. One person died later from his injuries. For safety reasons you can’t even enter this bank with sunglasses on. I was asked once to remove mine. Are you telling me that if this woman is denied entry it is islamophobia? Give me a break.

  3. criley410, good luck….no one will answer a logical ?. this site is appearently not about open discussion, but defensiveness and deflection, as in we are no worse that the jews or the christians.

  4. A bank and a mattress store are very different. For one thing, the woman spent time at the store BEFORE she was told to remove her veil – the story clearly states that she had tried the mattresses and when they wanted to talk about buying one, that was when they were told no go. If she had entered, and the store manager had cited a (real) policyh of no covered faces in the store, that would not have been religious profiling. If everyone is asked to do the same thing – i.e. remove sunglasses – then there is no problem.
    And it sounds like the mattress company did the correct thing so that makes it essentially a non-story.

  5. Hi,
    @criley401, a niqabbi will pull her niqab up while entering into a bank, getting her drivers liscense, and for security in the airport. I know plenty of people who wear niqab, and they do abide by the rules. I know, because I know plenty of niqabbis. Whenever it comes down to being identified, the normally abide by the rules.

  6. Bank robbery? Are you serious? Is that the best you can come up with? What are the statistics regarding female bank robbers wearing veils? I would challenge you to name ONE case.
    These people were discriminated against by people who probably claim to be Christians.
    Not MY Jesus!!
    He preached peace and acceptance of strangers and love for your neighbor, even your enemies.

    We worship the SAME GOD (of Abraham, Isaac & Jacob)
    the quir’an (Koran) acknowledges Jesus as a prophet & holy man.

    We must grow as a nation if we are truly honest in our claim to be the “land of the free” & the “melting pot” we are so proud of.
    otherwise, we become what our enemies portray us to be…world “bullies”, bent on occupation and exploitation of less developed countries.

  7. @ Criley 401 when i covered my face and entered places where it was forbidden i simply removed it for that situation. its seriously not a big deal. all of my friends who still cover also do the same.
    as another commenter said, there is a huge difference between a mattress store and a court house. selling a mattress poses absolutly no security risk to anybody… well unless the husband’s check bounces. lol in a courthouse or bank then yeah i have to agree that this is not the place for identities to be hidden for obvious reasons.

  8. ^ What Caarol said. Security reasons my ass.

    Yea, if this were a situation where they were asked to remove the veil for ‘security reasons’ they’d have slightly more ground to stand upon. However her husband was also there, so that defeats the purpose of concealing one’s identity for sake of a robbery when your cohort will just screw you over anyway.

    Plus, again, they were asking to buy when the purchase was refused, not entry to the establishment, for security reasons.

    … Seriously, it’s a @#$%ing mattress. How can you not sell a mattress for security reasons? What are they going to do? Wire it with explosives and smuggle it into someone’s apartment? *facepalm*

  9. The issue with face covering in banks has nothing to do with safety. You are just as dead if an unmasked person shoots you as if a masked person does (assuming your injury is fatal, of course; not all are). The question here is whether the shooter can be identified afterward.

    And here’s one for you: Unless the shooter walked to the bank, there are cameras outside. The getaway vehicle can still be identified. Bank employees can still get basic information about the robber such as their approximate height and whether they sound male or female. There are ways to identify someone even if you can’t see their face.

    It’s interesting that as far as I can recall (and if I’m wrong, I apologize), all these rules about no sunglasses, etc. in banks came after 9/11. If it were that important, the rules would have existed before then–at least, I would have been more aware of them. But I see signs in banks now to this effect, where before 9/11 I had not seen them. And I’ve spent plenty of time in banks.

    If nothing else there is nothing stopping a bank from allowing a niqabi to enter the building, then show her face to a female security guard or a female teller to verify against ID.

    But all that aside, it is not like it’s impossible to do banking without walking into a bank. There are Internet banks now that allow customers to open both personal and business accounts online. If brick and mortar banks want to lose Muslim business then let them. Frankly, a lot of what banks offer for services isn’t Islamic anyway; Islam forbids usury, so to play it safe, Muslims tend not to open accounts that earn interest or to apply for loans that require them to pay interest. That cuts out pretty much every possibility except regular checking accounts.

  10. I hope he suffers a long bout of sleepless nights.

  11. I am a Muslim American Woman. My ancestors did not migrate here, they were brought here during the African holocaust better known as the slave trade. I say this so that you will see just how American I am while you read my comment.
    I wore a face veil for 5 years, I have been Muslim all my life. I have never come across a bank that required me to lift my veil. If I had come cross such a thing I would have asked to have my ID verified by a female bank employee. If that was not possible, I would probably opt for the ATM which has no dress code requirement. If my business could not be handled at the ATM, and there were no other banks around, I would simply show my face to as few men as possible or expose my face to the security camera for a few moments or whatever. If the bank required that my face be visible at all times, then heck I’d remove my veil while I was in the bank, handle my business, and get on with my life. I mean think about it people– what the heck do you think they do at banks/secure facilities in Muslim countries where women cover? What do you think happens at the airport? we have to show our faces to a security personnel at the airport and then we get on with our lives without a hitch.
    I am human and American, born free, and I do not allow any bunch of lewd nudity-loving men to tell me how I should or should not dress. My modest dress is part of my feminism; and the thing about feminism (dear mike) is that you kinda have to be female to begin to really know it inside & out.

  12. Sis. Fatimah:

    Thanks for supplying a calm, logical reply to criley’s question….making Mike out to be a fool.

    Caarol:

    You’re self-contradictory. Make up your mind. Either you see the mattress store and the bank as the same or you don’t! If it is the latter, then different circumstances required different policies.

    When I worded @ an un-named sports shoe & apparel store, I once waiting on a Muslim sister who was COMPLETELY covered…including her eyes. The security office (P.G. Co. police) was a little jumpy, but I stepped in, de-escalated the situation, greeted her with the salaams and helped her and her children with selecting & purchasing some shoes. At no time did she or her presence threaten anyone in the store.

    There’s ABSOLUTELY NO EXCUSE for the mattress store manager’s asinine actions. Denied a mattress “….because of security reasons“. Islamaphobia doesn’t get much more stupid than that!

    Spades:

    You’ve summed up the situation quite well….!!

  13. wow, finally a great conversation on this site. let me start at the bottom and work my way up.

    bayyinah, not sure when i claimed to be a feminist but i’m not. but i’m a libertarian (so i quess by default, beleiving in equal rights for all i’m a feminist by its most pure definition). so i have no problem with you covering your face. but i also have no problem with a company, bank, convenient store, liquor store, or even the not so often robbed mattress store, saying that you must expose your face to conduct business. or if i’m having a party at my house and an invited guest bring someone wearing a veil, i should have the right to deny entre without fear of being sued. as for what happens in muslim countries, are they not the ones who infringe upon an individuals freedom of dress, by demanding a certain dress code of their people? so we should be more like saudi arabia? did you see the case of the woman in new jersey suing the hospital? so now we have to have every male first responder in the nation to have a female partner in case they come acroos a modest muslim woman who needs cpr, or some procedure where her breasts or even her face needs to be exposed? you think health care is expensive now. how about the florida woman who sued to wear her veil for her driver licsence picture? links to follow

  14. dana, you’re right, you are no less dead if an unmasked person kills you. just like you are no less dead if you are killed by a sober driver in a car accident than you are when killed by a drunk driver. but we outlaw drunken driving because of the increased possibility of accidents. then you say “whether they sound male or female” so you must see the possibilty of men dressing up as muslim women to rob banks. yet you mention usury as being against islam. so what about non-muslim men dressing up to rob bank, (and who said something about statistics of female bank robbers)? the point is that if you set the precident that businesses must accept veiled people into their establishments you open up vast possibilities for chaos. as for other means to identify people, you’re right, but it is more difficult. maybe the outside cameras don’t pick up the getaway car. how about it’s stolen or they remove the licscenes plate or put on a stolen plate, or they parked around the corner, or they are on a motorcycle, bike, how about in 100 years and there are 5 million burqua wearing women in ny city, just walk out, how about they wear a cardboard hat under their headdress to make themselves look taller, how about platformed shoes….i’m getting tired of the possibilities….on and on…

    as for when the no sunglasses and no hats ? here in tampa bay florida they popped up the 90’s, when we had a rash of note robbers. because, if you didn’t know all you have to do to rob a bank is walk in with a note saying you have a gun or a bomb and they give you a bunch of cash. they are insured. but make sure you…..well don’t want to….

    i love the, have a female teller come to a corner to identify a possibly armed veiled person. ya’ll are funny. you are projecting a what would “i” do into a situation when you should be saying want would a theif do. i used to do disaster recovery planning for buisnesses, you don’t imagine the best case scenario, you plan for the worst case scenario.

  15. didi and fatimah, it’s not the reasonable people such as yourselves that are disconcerting to (me) the average american, but those who want to press the issue. also are we not creating a whole plethora of scenarios where accomadations, some at taxpayers cost, must be made? is it not reasonable for a corporation to say we want to project a certain image, and a woman or man greeting our customers dressed head to toe in black without their eyes visable, is not the image we want and therefore we chose not hire said person?

    peace be with you

  16. Good, I wouldn’t sell anything to those savages either.

    She doesn’t have a constitutional right to not receive private sevices.

    Only the government can take away somebody’s rights.

    It’s sad that we’re expected to tolerate these people, they just need to leave.

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