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Altercation at New York amusement park after Muslim women banned from rides for wearing headscarves

Altercation at New York amusement park after Muslim women banned from rides for wearing headscarves

A New York amusement park was temporarily shut down Tuesday after a large-scale altercation erupted between Muslim patrons and park rangers over a disagreement on headgear rules.

Muslim women in a tour group at Rye Playland in Westchester County were reportedly denied access to several rides because they were wearing hijabs – their traditional headscarves, MyFoxNY reports.

“Our headgear policy is designed to protect the safety of patrons and safety is our first concern,” said Deputy Parks Commissioner Peter Tartaglia. “This policy was repeatedly articulated to the tour operator, but unfortunately the message did not reach some of the members of his group.”

The altercation began when park officials offered refunds and members of the Muslim group got in a scuffle, Tartaglia told The Journal News. Two park rangers were injured when they jumped in to break it up, he said, and were taken to local hospitals.

Dozens of police vehicles from nine agencies then rushed to the park, where officers arrested 15 people – mostly for disorderly conduct, authorities said. The disturbance involved around 30 to 40 people.

All other visitors were not allowed into the park between 4 and 6 p.m. ET, with exit ramps from I-95 closed as well.

The tour group – the Muslim American Society of New York – was at the park to celebrate Eid-ul-Fitr, an Islamic holiday that marks the end of Ramadan, MyFoxNY reports.

“Everybody got mad, everybody got upset,” Amr Khater, a Brooklyn resident, told The Journal News. “It’s our holiday. Why would you do this to us?” Khater said park rangers notified him of the headgear rules upon arrival.

Fox News, 30 August 2011

The Journal News reports: “Lola Ali, 16, of Astoria said she witnessed a group of girls and women wearing hijabs go to park security to confront them about the headgear issue. She said the women were upset and yelling. She said the security officers started pushing them away and the girls stood their ground, at which point the security officers grabbed them, pushed them to the ground and handcuffed them. Men within the park saw this and tried to intervene, Ali said, and the situation went downhill from there. ‘They were beating down the girls, then they started beating down the guys,’ she said of the security officers.”


  1. I saw this on yahoo news, sick sick sick.

    And they say Islam puts women down? HA! Hijab may be mandatory, but it shouln’t be forced on. It’s sad some people try to force hijab on their daughters/wives but in the end its between her and God, I know countless women that don’t wear hte hijab, no one says anything against them. Hijab is just for modesty because God knows men can be pigs who like to prey on scantily clad women, which is why we cover up. And by the way, I wore my Hijab on the Iron Wolf, the Batman and Superman Rides at Six Flags, I’m still alive.

  2. So whewre is the part about slamming women to the ground approved? Police versus (untrained for hand to hand combat) women…that’s equal power components. Not. Happened to me in similar wrongful disposal-I was defenseless with no rights and everyone just watched a 5″2″ 120 pound 50 year old accosted by 4 large, packing men.

  3. I’m willing to bet that the reason that woman got mad had nothing to do with the safety regulations, and everything to do with how she was addressed.

    I’ve been explained about health and safety and head-scarves before, in a hospital environment, and the way I was told and the comments that were made were completely disrespectful and out of order. Often, whether these rules are justified or not, they allow thinly veiled discrimination to occur and allow people who have certain feelings about Muslims to cause conflict.

    A long floaty scarf is a health hazard, a close fitted one piece is not, and it’s not hard to realise that. It’s like banning all tops because some peoples shirts are too long sleeved or have bits that could catch fire. It makes no sense.

  4. ^^Leila, I agree completely.

  5. I’ve been reading through these comments & have several things to say. I’m a Muslim-American. I’ve been reading comments on other websites by Americans saying “if you don’t like our rules, go back to your homeland….blah, blah, blah.” Many of the Muslims living in the U.S. are in fact converts/reverts like myself. We’re college-educated. We’re tax-paying citizens, etc. We were born HERE! We’re not on welfare. We’re not sucking the system dry. That excuse is such a bunch of mularkey (sp?) This IS my homeland. I can understand how some Muslims feel that they are being singled out & picked on because it has happened to me too. I did wear hijab for 10 months but was so discriminated against because of it I decided to stop wearing it. Isn’t that sad that in my own country I can’t even express my religion freely without being in fear? No one gives Christians crap for wearing a cross necklace or Jews crap for wearing jewelry with the Star of David. For example: I’m a teacher. I went to a client’s home in a wealthy Jewish/Christian neighborhood here in Houston for private tutoring lessons. I got there early so I was sitting in my car filling out the tutoring paperwork and the “Christian” neighbors called the police & 2 cop cars pulled up behind my car….when I asked what was going on…the African-American female police officer said they’d gotten a report that there was suspicious activity in the neighborhood & that there had been quite a few burglaries in the area. I told her, “I know exactly what’s going on here. This is because I’m Muslim & I’m wearing the headscarf. I REALLY look like someone who would burglarize a house, right?” HA! What a joke! The people that called the cops on me probably didn’t even realize that their neighbors were Muslim. There’s just an incredible amount of Islamophobia in this country fueled by the media. Every time I got on a plane people would look at me like I was a terrorist. I just got sick of it. Discrimination is a real & serious problem. I was unemployed this past year, like so many other Americans, there were budget cuts in education so I lost my job. I got a temp job in a call center. I was trying so hard to stay off unemployment…even though I could have earned more $ being on unemployment than working 40 hours a week at that temp job. Everything was going good. Then all of sudden I was fired. I found out later that someone lied & told the boss I was shaving my legs in the sink. No, you corporate morons, I was washing my feet in the sink as part of ablution or ritual washing of hands, arms, face & feet to purify ones self before praying (on MY own time…my 15 minute break). I wash my feet 5x/day. My feet are cleaner than most people’s butts. I was promoted to a NEW position with greater responsibilities…of course, without a pay raise (like so many other American workers) TWO days before I was fired. You do the math!
    Back to the subject at hand: I think it was not a smart move on the part of the Muslim American Society of New York to pick a place to go to for Eid al-Fitr that they KNEW had a ban on head gear. From the article, it sounds to me like the police WERE using excessive force (which is unfortunately nothing new in America)….you don’t push a woman down to the ground even if she is yelling. I can totally understand if the woman was putting her hands on the cop but that was NOT the case here. I think the male relatives were totally within their right to come to her defense. The cops didn’t have the right to touch her.
    For many women, the headscarf is a huge part of their identity. People need to understand that it’s all about modesty…covering up ones outward beauty because that is seen as something only for one’s husband…also it might help prevent men, who are so visually stimulated, from lusting after a woman if she’s covering up.

  6. I wonder….would there be so much negative uproar about this article if hypothetically speaking the people in question were Amish? For all practical purposes, Amish people are dressing in an Islamic manner. The women wear bonnets & the men wear black hats. The women wear long dresses with long sleeves & dark socks….covering up everything but their face & hands. The men wear long sleeves, long pants, dark socks & often wear full beards….like many Muslim men. For them, it’s also all about modesty. People may not understand or agree with their lifestyle but it seems that Americans have much more respect for them. No one’s telling them to go back to their homeland ie. Germany, Switzerland & France. Now, of course, Amish people probably would not be at an amusement park….idk, I could be wrong. Also, for those Muslims involved….c’mon now….from one Muslim to another…we just got done having the most religious month of the year by not eating or drinking from sun up to sun down & going to the mosque every day for special prayers….is this the way to end Ramadan by causing a riot? I think not. We have to exemplify better behavior than those around us & not give non-muslims an excuse to attack us. If they wouldn’t let you on the rides, I think the entire group of 3000+ muslims should have walked out, declared a boycott, demanded their money back…hit the amusement park where it really hurts…their pocketbooks & called on all other Muslims to never go there. There ARE amusement parks that DO allow headscarfs like the Kemah boardwalk near Houston. Btw, I agree with Leila. My hijabi wearing friends in Turkey are allowed to wear their hijabs in the hospital when they’re having a baby…it’s no problem.

  7. Headgear and other lose items are a hazard on amusement park rides because they can lead to injuries for those wearing the items and other people. If the headgear is dislodged and lands on the track of an amusement park ride it could lead to a derailing injuring or killing other people.That’s why the policy applies to ALL headgear.Surely Muslims are most concerned about the safety of all visitors at Playland.

  8. elle,

    “Hijab is just for modesty because God knows men can be pigs who like to prey on scantily clad women”. that’s the kind of reasoning that leads to blaming the victim.

    “look your honor i’m a man. i was just living up to my nature. she walk by in a bikini, so i raped her.”

    shouldn’t god put the onus on the men to behave in a civilized maner. i don’t care if a woman walks by naked, you shouldn’t be a pig.

  9. “also it might help prevent men, who are so visually stimulated, from lusting after a woman if she’s covering up.” WOW really!

  10. I smell a setup. And Mike, please do not talk of pigs.

  11. Mike
    that’s why in the Quran men AND womn are told to lower their gazes in the presence of each other, and men shouldn’t show any thing below the navel or above the knees.

    Lordie, you know some girls’ long hair get caught in the rides and they die. Should that mean they should shave their heads before going on the ride? I think not. And btw, I’ve gone on rollercoasters with my hijab on, nothing ever happened as long as you got it pinned down and tight fitting.

  12. Mike, that’s also why women pray BEHIND men, so men don’t catch a glimpse of the women’s backside when she bends over for prayer.

  13. And bro, men ARE condemned for rape and girl chasing in Islam. Old timey-Arabian culture still kinda lives in the hearts of some people and that’s why a women is looked at shamfully if raped (but only sometimes. Most old-fashioned people are starting to see the light), I actually had a convo like this with my mother the other day. but everyon knows the rapist is really in trouble with the law and God.

    There’s a story about when the Prophet prohibited fornication and dating and girl/boy chasing. One man known for his felandering (sp) ways came to the Prophet and said “Oh Prophet i will pray, fast, read Quran, I will do anything, but i cannot stop being with women, I will not.” The Prophet said “Imagine if someone went after your sister or Mother or daughter, what would you do?” The man thought about it and said “I’d go after them myself and punish them” so then the Prophet nodded and said “See your reaction? That is the way your lady friend’s father, or brother or uncle will feel. Lower your gaze, and be chaste.”

  14. The park was upfront about the rules on headgear. They did not have a rule that singled out Muslims. If people did not like the rules then leaving would be the best bet. Yelling at policemen and not backing down is a bad Idea. Most people would think that if one did so you could get arrested. The people in this group acted like spoiled children. They should have taken their refunds and went to another park, even if it ruined their day. In life some days just get ruined, it does not give you the right to yell at people doing thier jobs or start fights.

    I believe in the right to be Muslim in America and I believe that Muslims should not be discriminated against. I also believe that being Muslim in America does not give you special rights or priviliges others do not have. If a person feels they have a religious obligation to wear headgear then do not go to places where headgear is not allowed. Sometimes to maintain belief structures one must sacrifice the ability to participate in some activities.

  15. This is in reply to Hera that headscarves are a hazard in an amusement park rides..I come from India and there are upteen amusement parks there and NOT one of them ban any woman from any rides because of their head scarves..Everyone are allowed into any rides and all of them are comparable to any super rides in USA..This is one of the worst explanations one can give that a muslim headscarf can kill you in an amusement park..get a life..

  16. Suhail,

    I’m not talking about India I’m talking about the United States. The Muslims visitors were told in ADVANCE that headgear was not allowed on some rides due to SAFETY concerns.The SAFETY of both those wearing the headgear as well as other visitors was sited. If a loose object or headgear flies off and lands on the track it could derail an amusement park ride injuring or killing people.From what I’ve read there have been three deaths at this particular amusement park.Wouldn’t it be best to err on the side of caution rather then risk more loss of life at Playland? People have the option to either remove headgear, choose rides where headgear is not an issue or avoid amusement parks where headgear is a safety concern. Surely the wearing of headgear is not more important then human life. Are you embarrassed that a group of Muslims would riot over not being able to wear headgear on SOME rides at an amusement park? A policy that applies to ALL visitors, a policy the Muslims were made aware of in ADVANCE of their visit to Playland.

  17. NY Daily News

    “The ban, which is not Muslim specific, was imposed about 3 years ago mostly to prevent hats from falling onto the tracks of roller coasters and other rides, park officials said.”

    Peter Tartaglia,deputy commissioner of Westchester County Parks, said the Muslim American Society of New York was warned in advance of the rule barring head scarves on rides for safety reasons.

    “Part of our rules and regulations, which we painstakingly told them over and over again, is that certain rides you cannot wear any sort of headgear,” Tartaglia said. “It’s a safety issue for us on rides, it could become a projectile.”

  18. Suhail,

    perhaps you don’t realize what a litigious society america is. we have these people called trial lawyers. they advertise for anyone injured to employ them to sue the “at fault party”. and that usually means whatever entity involved in any way who has the most money. we have volumes of case law where businesses are sued because someone is injured on their property. i remember a bank getting sued because a customer was robbed at their atm. they caught the robber but no one sued him. the plantiff’s lawyer argueed that there was poor lighting and the robber hide behind a bush. the bank should have forseen the posibility of the robbery and taken measures to prevent it. so what do you think are some of the forseen posibilities of people wearing headgear on a coaster?

    america probably has more lawyers per capita that any nation on earth. we have this little saying, cya (cover your ass). when a $10 an hour employee is given an “official policy”, probably written by a $200 and hour lawyer, by his or her boss, they aren’t going to ammend it or make excepts to it on the spot.

    ok maybe they are just tired of picking up crap from under the coaster everyday?


    “I wore my Hijab on the Iron Wolf, the Batman and Superman Rides at Six Flags, I’m still alive.” that’s specious reasoning. i drove my car today and i didn’t die in a car accident. but i bet someone did. perhaps this coaster is a much different design then those? those sound like newer one’s to me with maybe high backs and the shoulder thing coming down. i don’t know, but maybe this coaster is and older stlye where the car back only comes up maybe shoulder high with the single lap bar and the head would be exposed to much more wind force? i think the greater concern is it flying back and hitting someone behind you, than you being strangled, but you never know. you maynot be old enough to remember but some years back a few kids where strangled by the strings in their hoodies on playgrounds.
    “I’ve gone on rollercoasters with my hijab on, nothing ever happened as long as you got it pinned down and tight fitting.” so who is going to determine it is “pinned down and tight fitting” enough? so what do you think would have happened if one of the guys said, “let me see if that’s tight enough” as he touch her headscarf?

  19. elle,

    would you say that the woman in purple has a tight enough headscarf?

    ‘It’s clear, this all happened because we’re Muslim,’ says Dena Meawad. really? is there a term for muslims’ western society phobia? how about a phobia for safety regulation? how about a phobia for being targeted…..oh yeah it’s call paranoia. i thought hypocrasy was condoned in islam?

  20. Don’t know all that happened, but sounds like neither side handled this situation extremely well. In an employer-employee relationship (just for comparison), an employer will try to accommodate the religious practices of an employee. When safety is involved, it’s sometimes impossible. But I don’t get the impression that the park staff made an effort to accommodate.

  21. elle,

    your silence is deafening. no word on the woman in purples headscarf? or the idea of a security guard checking headscarfs? not good for a journalist. anyways don’t know if you saw my posts on the cia article before it scrolled?

    “The pen is mightier than the sword”

    “The Islamic prophet Muhammad is quoted as saying “The ink of the scholar is holier than the blood of the martyr”.[12][13]”

  22. A hijab is an identity, social and religious. It is NOT an article of clothing, a safety hazard, “headgear” , nor should it be confused with a niqab as several western papers have published pictures along with articles of this incident. Denying privileges to a person based on such insignificant and subtle differences is not only inaccurate, but in my opinion cowardly. These women had a universal right not to be stripped of their identity and an American right of freedom of choice. How interesting it is to see public opinion to be the victim of amnesia when fear and anger permeates the minds of a wounded people since 9-11. Are we a tolerant people, we shall see. If women in America are stripped of their identity and right to enjoy the privileges of the whole because of an article of clothing that does not present itself as a significant safety hazard, then Henry Thoreau’s quote should become an adage that the majority rule not bc they are right but bc they are the strongest. CC

  23. The Hijab which almost disappeared from Modern Muslim Societies is back. The reason its back is because it is a tool of Propaganda. The problem with attempting to look like the Icons Of the Mother Mary is you are not the Mother Mary. I know for a fact Muslim women can have sex that morning with her husband then walk around pretending to be a nun. There is not religious reason to wear a Hijab, it is cultural it is political. Also I dont agree with pedophilia or polygamy as promoted by the Quran and practised by Muslim and other Cults including those pretending to be Christian.

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