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New Jersey: Muslim woman told to remove niqab in mall

22 May 2012 General 48 Comments Email This Post Email This Post


by Jen Maxfield , ABC 7

ELIZABETH (WABC) — Wakeelah Salaam had been shopping by herself for less than ten minutes at the Bridegwater Commons Mall when a security guard approached her and told her to remove her traditional Muslim face covering.

“He said, ‘ma’am, I’m telling you, you cannot wear that mask in here. He came as close to me as though he was going to kiss me, and then he made the hand gesture like he was going to lift it up for me,” Salaam said.

Salaam was born in the United States, and was raised Muslim. She has always worn a long dress, or hijab, and a headscarf. But when she was in her mid-20s, she decided to start wearing the niqab, or face covering, that shows only her eyes when she’s in public.

She’s worn the niqab in court, and even to visit a relative in prison, so Salaam says she was shocked when she was approached twice by the same mall security guard Saturday. She eventually felt so uncomfortable that she called police.

“I felt threatened, like I couldn’t walk and shop in the mall without this man asking me to take off my niqab,” Salaam added.

After speaking with police, Salaam decided to leave Bridgewater Commons, which she had visited before with no problems. After Eyewitness News got involved, an executive with the company that runs Bridgewater Commons’ security called Salaam to say he’s sorry.

“We sincerely apologize”, said Donald Lantz, “Our security guard has received additional training in cultural diversity. We respect her right to dress according to her religious beliefs and she is welcome in our mall anytime.”

Salaam says she appreciates the apology, but next time she needs to go shopping, she will probably choose another mall.

Original post: Muslim woman told to remove niqab in mall

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48 Comments »

  1. private businesses have to be allowed to require that people not be masked in their place of business. i don’t see how this concept would be so foriegn to someone born in america.

    “Salaam says she appreciates the apology, but next time she needs to go shopping, she will probably choose another mall.” don’t be suprised if the same thing doesn’t happen at another mall. or a mattress store or a bank.

    no my bad. america needs to rework it’s entire culture to make sure we accomadate every culture in the world. so much for assimilation.

  2. If I owned a shop I wouldn’t serve somebody wearing a mask (any mask). I would politely ask them to remove it and if they refused I would politely ask them to shop elsewhere.

  3. Mike,

    You need to understand one thing. This veil is a part of our culture, just like the kufi is apart of the Jewish culture, and the way Christians wear the Christ necklace or the prayer beads. All these little things are ways we show who we are and what we believe in. To say that, that man has a right to tell her to take off her veil is wrong in so many ways.

    I’m 18 years old, born and raised in America, I too am an Arab American. I am Muslim and wouldn’t change it if I could. A few years ago, on my 16th birthday, I went to the mall to pick up a few things for my sweet 16, last minute shopping. A man was screaming at an elderly woman and her daughter of 5 years, screaming telling them to get out of his country. I automatically assumed that this woman didn’t understand English so I stood up for her and told that man right. Now afterwards, when the man left, I turned to the woman and she told me, “You didn’t have to do that, he made a fool of himself the second he stood up and raised his voice to me” I was so shocked that she knew English, I judged her by her looks which was wrong. Till this day, I don’t let anyone make a fool of me or my culture, or what I believe in.

    Now Imagine you walking into a store and the store clerk asks you to take off your necklace, or prayer beads, or kufi…it would make no sense right? Because that’s something that’s personal to you. You were the one that dressed yourself that morning or night or whatever, you wore it for a reason. What does this store clerk, or in this case, this mall cop, have any rit to come up to you and ask you to take off this piece of clothing or jewelry, or accessory.

    I hope you’re not offended by anything that I have stated above, I am only trying to get my point across and clear. :)

  4. They just want to humiliate muslims

  5. I think it’s less about Islamophobia and more about simple ignorance. I hope the guard realizes his error and apologizes.

  6. I think it’s less about Islamophobia and more about simple ignorance. I hope the guard realizes his error and apologizes.

  7. I think it’s less about Islamophobia and more about simple ignorance. I hope the guard realizes his error and apologizes.

  8. So much for freedom of religion…

  9. What ever happened to minding your own fucking business and just doing your stupid job.

  10. What ever happened to minding your own fucking business and just doing your stupid job.

  11. What ever happened to minding your own fucking business and just doing your stupid job.

  12. Did they also tell all the young males to pull up their sagging pants?? Much more offensive.

  13. Ohferchrissakes!

  14. It sucks she was asked to remove it, but I am glad she got an apology…..

  15. That makes no sense. It’s not like he’s going to go up to a Christian and ask them to not display their cross or ask a Jewish Person to not show their star of David. People are so stupid >.<

  16. WTF?

  17. It doesn’t matter what a private shop owner thinks about her wearing religious clothing. Being a private business owner does not give anyone the right to violate her constitutional rights to freedom of religion and freedom of expression. People wear items that obscure their faces all the time – everything from scarves in the winter to large sunglasses and even excessive facial hair. It seems odd to me that only this would be targeted. Muslim women are now socially punished for both choosing to wear the veil and choosing not to wear the veil. Personally, I fail to see how her clothing choices are anyone else’s business.

  18. Wow. So, if a nun or a priest walked in and was asked to take off his/her religious clothing because it caused attention that wouldn’t be seen as disrespectful and wrong? And please don’t respond with that is totally different because it’s not. First and foremost go and research why a woman chooses to wear a niqab before judging.

    You need to have a more open mind than that. We live in America and that constitutes freedom of religion and for this particular US citizen she believes in the faith of Islam and chooses to wear a niqab. No one has the right to ask another person to take it off. He should have known better but most likely he did this in order to prove a point which unfortunately as I can see through both your comments happened. That his ignorance will continue and people like you will never learn until one day you are in a situation like that.

  19. To James and Mike I hope one day you get to travel outside of the US and maybe go to countries of different faiths and open your eyes a little more. You will see just how beautiful the world is without having to strip people’s rights away.

  20. It’s not a mask! Boy, cultural racism is so seriously insidious when we can call a niqab a “mask” with a straight face.

  21. “no my bad. america needs to rework it’s entire culture to make sure we accomadate every culture in the world. so much for assimilation.”- from another comment on this article.

    No, America doesn’t have to rework its entire culture to accommodate every culture in the world, it just has to respect that other cultures follow different practices. Just because one lives in America doesn’t mean they have to utterly and totally assimilate to our ways.

    The security company’s response was very proper, and hopefully the guard in question learned something.

  22. I think America SHOULD make every effort to accomadate every culture that exists in our environment. How can you say everyone should change to your culture just because they live there? She has to shop somewhere, and if that’s her most convienient mall – she shouldn’t be forced to break her religion to shop there.

  23. If there is no apparent security issue at hand, no single security guard has the right to make such a request of a customer in a shopping mall. If this were a police matter, then obviously the case would be handled differently.

  24. There are many people who are sick or have severe facial deformities that also need to wear masks everywhere they go. Not to long ago when the bird flue virus was going around, many people were wearing surgical masks everywhere they go. So more in likely this incident was a direct result of the racist, islamophobic propaganda that is being spread throughout the US, making the general public view muslims as a threat and their presence as almost like a personal insult. Hopefully once these stupid wars finally end, the US government wont need to demonize muslims anymore and things can go back to normal.

  25. kerry berger,

    “If there is no apparent security issue at hand” so what if there was an “appearent” security issue? isn’t someone in a mask, by definition a security issue?

    “no single security guard has the right to make such a request of a customer in a shopping mall.” obviously it is not the case here, given the managements response, but what if it was the malls policy not to allowed masked people to enter? what if it was a committee of security guards? your comment makes my laugh.

    guess you missed criley’s link on the string of bank robberies in philly?

    http://philadelphia.cbslocal.com/2012/04/06/philadelphia-police-fbi-searching-for-serial-robbers/

    Afif Hami,

    how is it humiliating to show one’s face in public? clearly your culture is not compatible with american culture.

    i keep hearing muslims say they don’t want any special treatment. but the multiple lawsuits demanding special treatment speaks volumes to the contrary.

  26. Here we go again. Another Muslim in a burqa trying to demand everyone cave in to her demands.

  27. It’s not a mask you ignoramus, she’s not a ninja and this isn’t Halloween. Its a form of religious devotion. A burqa is an entire outfit that not only covers her nose and mouth but also her eyes; do your homework before you say something dumb. Ontop of which, no matter what religion a woman adhere’s to, it’s her right to dress as modest or immodest as she pleases. It’s not your right to decide how much of a woman’s body you get to see, even if that extends as far as to her face. The mall cop knew what she was wearing, he was just being an idiot or hjerk, take your pick.
    “AMERICAN CULTURE” Mike, is the freedom to worship and live however you see fit, and a woman not allowing you to see her is not “special treatment”. So sorry she’s infringing upon your right to gawk at her.

  28. aAnother horn dog non Muslim man wanting to see if he can get close to something thats not his

  29. “They just want to humiliate muslims”

    If I wear a pig mask and walk into a shop owned by muslims can I assume they would be cool with that?

  30. I am a Muslim and really dont like niqab, and dont think Muslims should wear it , my opinion though thats why we live here the USA, and she has the right to wear whatever she wants,unless we are going to become like other countries. I saw a person in the Mall wearing big black wig, many piercing all over face, should I be afraid of him, he has the right to wear whatever he wants too.

  31. Elena,

    “and she has the right to wear whatever she wants,unless we are going to become like other countries.” so if it is part of her religion to carry a knife, she should be allowed to board a plane with her knife?
    “or immodest as she pleases.” really? i’m pretty sure many, municipalities have laws against public nudity. here in pinellas county they banned t-backs some 15 years ago.

    “The mall cop knew what she was wearing, he was just being an idiot or hjerk, take your pick.” can only be one of those two, right? i wouldn’t pretend to know someone’s reasoning, but clearly you are much smarter than me and clairvoyant to boot.

    “It’s not your right to decide how much of a woman’s body you get to see, even if that extends as far as to her face.” you sure? if i’m business owner don’t i have a right to set a dress code? the bank i go to has a sign asking me remove my baseball hat and sunglasses. i forget sometimes and the tellers ask me to remove them. upscale restaurants have had coat and tie requirements for as long as i can remember. you obviously don’t go to nightclubs. some have no flio flop rules or rules about not having your pants down to where your underwear is exposed. that’s a hip-hop thing.

    “It’s not a mask you ignoramus” really. maybe you need to do some homework as to what the definition of a mask is? her i’ll help you out. anything which covers someone’s face can be defined as a mask. put if the word upsets you, let me just say that a business has a right to ask that people entering are not concealing their identity, which both a niqub or a burqa does. but iam ignorant of much. but i do know the differance between the usually woren in saudi niqub and the afghan burqa.

    ““AMERICAN CULTURE” Mike, is the freedom to worship and live however you see fit,” to a degree. so you support allowing the christian scientist to with hold basic medical treatment for their children, often leading to death because they believe they can pray them to health. so you would support human sacrifice for religious purposes? how about cannibalism. all rights have limitations. even as a libertarian i realize that. so you are for the decriminalizing or legalizing drug use? american culture has many facets, including property rights. it’s a difficult job balancing everyone’s rights.

    “before you say something dumb” lol. “So sorry she’s infringing upon your right to gawk at her.”

    as for special treatment do i have to list all the lawsuits i’ve seen on this website by muslims wanting special treatment….well that’s enough of a rant for now. lol

    “It’s not your right to decide how much of a woman’s body you get to see, even if that extends as far as to her face.” here’s one that wasn’t on this site for ya.

    http://www.freerepublic.com/focus/fr/618460/posts

    “”Florida law requires a full facial view of a person on their drivers license photo,”” hum??? guess we are already like other countries in some ways. what a terrible law this must be in your eyes.

  32. jakie,

    “I saw a person in the Mall wearing big black wig, many piercing all over face, should I be afraid of him, he has the right to wear whatever he wants too.” piercings don’t conceal someones identity. but the school i went to surely would not have allowed it. in the 80’s my school didn’t allow males to have earrings. “distracting” hair styles where also not allowed. of course that was high school and they are often given more freedom to limit students freedoms of expression. still to this day you get stories of some kid sent home for the t-shirt they wore to shcool. usually the rebel battle flag.

  33. I’ll just say what I posted on Facebook…

    The whole beauty of being an American is that you can be whoever you want to be! I don’t know what part of America you come from, but in my America, you’re allowed to be an individual. If I can walk down the street in a thong and sparkly bra, this lady can cover everything up.

    I am not now and I never have been a Muslim. I have lived and grown up in Georgia and Alabama most of my life, and Muslims don’t have an easy life there. When I was in college, I dated a Muslim Pakistani for a long time, and I made every effort I possibly could to accommodate his religious beliefs. I marked the direction of Mecca in my dorm in case he was ever at my place when it was time to pray, and because I’m vegan, I was always able to point out to him what was and was not halal whenever we went out to eat. The women would sometimes take me with them to the mosque, and out of respect I would always wear a hijab. When we went out to eat later, it never occurred to me to take off the veil. Why would I? It’s not bothersome or uncomfortable. I used to get terrible, absolutely HORRID looks for it. I don’t know how they shrugged it off.

    The security guard in question was NOT acting under the pretenses of his job because the mall owners have made it clear that the lady’s niqab does not bother them. But it still bothers me to see things like this. It seems clear to me that the “extreme” nature of this lady’s adherence to what she believes is an Islamic dress code bothers people. I don’t care if someone worships a roll of toilet paper, whatever makes them happy and makes sense to them. Before me ex transferred to another university and we split up, we had even discussed the possibility of marriage. He wanted me to keep the children Muslim, and I absolutely agreed because it didn’t bother me in the slightest. I volunteered that once we had children I would take up wearing a hijab in order to set a good example for my daughters.

    Muslim people should NOT have to conform to what people perceive as American culture. There is NO such thing as American culture, American dress. Being American means being whoever you want to be, worshiping whatever you want to worship. It means walking down the street in a thong and with blue hair. It means dressing up in an animal costume and going to Wal-Mart. It means wearing jeans with your butt hanging out. It means having long hair, having short hair. It means wearing a Christmas sweater that covers your chest in the middle of July. It means wearing high heels if you’re a man. It means wearing construction work boots if you’re a woman. It means covering up, it means letting it all hang out. It means looking like whatever the heck you want to look like. WHY SHOULD THIS LADY BE ANY DIFFERENT?

  34. In my culture it is considered bad manners to wear a mask when talking to someone face to face. If somebody wearing a ski mask or a motorcycle helmet with a face covering wished to talk to me I would ask them to remove the mask first just as I would ask a woman wearing a niqab to uncover her face if she wished to have a conversation. Any refusal means the conversation is over.

  35. Anybody wearing a niqab is urging for notice exactly like this. Probably a convert trying to prove her worth to her new religion. Lo! I am worthy to suffer the slings and arrows, etc…

    Read about a school in UK of women coming to pick up their children in niqab. How the hell can you turn over a child to someone whose identity is hidden?

  36. No, Mike. Muslims don’t want special treatment.

    Muslims only want their faith to be respected like other faiths are respected.

    Not all Muslim sisters wear the niqab.

    James: If a Muslim sister wears the niqab, I highly doubt she’s so pressed to hold a conversation with you that she’d oblige your silly & petty request.

    Mike: I’m sure that the Muslim sisters have full facial pictures on the driver’s licenses. You’re terribly generalizing.

    When I worked in retail, I recall a Muslim sister entering the store (where P.G. Co. police was our security) and she was completely covered! One could not even tell the color of her skin (she wore thick laced gloves) and a lace veil even covering her eyes. The police officer unsnapped his gun (which remained holstered), but I stepped in, gave her the “salams” and waited on her and her children. That was an educational moment for all who witnessed it.

    It truly is ignorant and insensitive to ask someone to remove their religious garments in a public place. I’m sure that the Muslim sisters have no problems showing female employees their faces in the situation that their identity needs to be verified (i.e. upon making purchase with credit card or check).

    The security company took the appropriate action by offering an apology to the Muslim sister. Of course, the ignorant blog “barenakedIslam” is spinning this in their usual ignorant direction. Sad.

  37. “James: If a Muslim sister wears the niqab, I highly doubt she’s so pressed to hold a conversation with you that she’d oblige your silly & petty request”

    excellent, so we can both leave the situation happy.

    “I’m sure that the Muslim sisters have no problems showing female employees their faces”

    Why only females?

  38. I guess liberals would have no problem with a bank robber in a burqa.

  39. alice,

    wow a whole bunch of comments propogated in the middle there. this will take a while. have to address these from home this evening. at work right now. oh well you’ll have to come back to not care as to what i say. check ya latter.

    you have a good day.

  40. Abdul lah,

    “I hope you’re not offended by anything that I have stated above,” don’t worry about offending me. i see things as one of two things when it comesto being offended. either the truth, and how can you be offend by the truth. or a falsehood and again why worry about something that is not true.

    “I am only trying to get my point across and clear.” same as me.

    “You need to understand one thing. This veil is a part of our culture,” arab culture? the egyptians don’t wear the niqab in large numbers do they? the syrians, the jordanians? hell queen nor doesn’t even wear a hiqab? right? you certainly don’t mean muslim culture?
    “To say that, that man has a right to tell her to take off her veil is wrong in so many ways.” so if 10 niqab wearing women enter a bank, no concern? what if they are all 6 feet tall? maybe it’s just the saudi arabian volleyball team, right? sorry i couldn’t resist. one thing you need to understand is that in american culture, and we do have a culture, when people cover there faces in public they are looked upon as up to no good. also we have a sizable criminal element within our culture. please see my link in my comment to elena. so does anyone have a right to ask this woman to remove her veil? a male police officer, a tsa agent, a security officer at a liqour store? store manager at a mattress store. if i throw a party at my house, do i have a right to refuse her entery into my house without first seeing her face? security at a sporting event?

    “I don’t let anyone make a fool of me or my culture, or what I believe in.” good for you. but no one can make a fool of someone else. like the woman said he made a fool of himself.

    “Now Imagine you walking into a store and the store clerk asks you to take off your necklace, or prayer beads, or kufi…it would make no sense right? Because that’s something that’s personal to you. You were the one that dressed yourself that morning or night or whatever, you wore it for a reason.” i got so many stories that are relevant here, here’s a couple. as for necklaces. i went to the university of florida in 1988. there where alot of punks and skinheads around at that time. they often wore chains with a padlock around their necks. i thought how stupid. if they get in a fight (they liked to fight) all you have to do is grab it and twist it to take control over them. but then a saw a big fight brewing at a show one night. they took their keys out and unlocked them. now they all had foot long chains with locks on the end as weapons. why do you think they wear studded belts?
    “What does this store clerk, or in this case, this mall cop, have any rit to come up to you and ask you to take off this piece of clothing or jewelry, or accessory.” security reasons. on the flip side, i had a friend who had a t-shirt made that said, “my dad f***** jesus and all i got was this lousy t-shirt”. he wasn’t allowed in or was thrown out of quite a few stores for wearing that. that shirt was an expression of him. he was a devout atheist and a self proclaimed smart ass.

    your comparison with other forms of religious clothing are apples and oranges. none of those conseal your identity. many crimes are solved with video evidence. also having a description is quite valuable.

    please see my link in the other post.

    Abd Rabbi-hi congrats on your new venture in life. or am i wrong to assume you are headed to college soon? what i would give to be 18 again.

  41. jc,

    “No, Mike. Muslims don’t want special treatment.” so why sue ambercrombie and finch, twice, electrolux, twice, disneyland, the school board, hospitals, twice? why demand a different room in the st louis jail to be frisked? why did this woman sue the state of florida to have a special photo on her license? why say you are against laws disallowing sharia in courts unless you mean to implement your “muslim only” laws?

    “Muslims only want their faith to be respected like other faiths are respected.” how is their faith disrespected?

    “Not all Muslim sisters wear the niqab.” thanks boss. lol. wear do all these superlatives come from. obviously a small minority muslim women where the niqab. it is only popluar in the gulf states. that has to be less then 20% of all mulsims world wide. in the west i’m sure the percentage is tiny. when the french where debating a ban, didn’t someone come out and argue against it because only like 200 some french muslims wear it.

    “Mike: I’m sure that the Muslim sisters have full facial pictures on the driver’s licenses. You’re terribly generalizing.” how so????????? i gave you a case of a muslim woman wanting special treatment. how’s that a generalization? she either doesn’t drive or her picture is on her’s. she lost her case.

    “When I worked in retail, I recall a Muslim sister entering the store (where P.G. Co. police was our security) and she was completely covered! One could not even tell the color of her skin (she wore thick laced gloves) and a lace veil even covering her eyes. The police officer unsnapped his gun (which remained holstered), but I stepped in, gave her the “salams” and waited on her and her children. That was an educational moment for all who witnessed it.”

    karen did you here that story. your clarvoyance maybe off???????

    “It truly is ignorant and insensitive to ask someone to remove their religious garments in a public place. I’m sure that the Muslim sisters have no problems showing female employees their faces in the situation that their identity needs to be verified (i.e. upon making purchase with credit card or check).” lol. so you would call that special treatment. so if i’m at the bank and a niqab comes in. the female teller should be taken of her task to go to the women’s room to identify the customer in front of me. you sound like noor or was that nasreed? last time a simular story came up. like i said to her, you are projecting what a law abiding muslim would do. you are giving criminal elements to many weapons. not to mention opening the bank up to huge liabilities. let’s say the person on the mask, sorry scratch that, veil is an armed male. now you have ready handed a female hostage to him, you now have the female teller suing her employer, or worst her suvivors, for having her perform security duties she is not trained for. come on the possibilities are endless.

    a private property owner has to have the right to require that it’s customers are able to be identified. this is not a reasonable accomodation.

    did no see the link to the philly case?

  42. alice,

    to much trolling, maybe tomorrow. just let me say, your veiled hiqab confuses me? in the mean time a little cut and paste of levity for ya.

    One pill makes you larger
    And one pill makes you small
    And the ones that mother gives you
    Don’t do anything at all
    Go ask Alice
    When she’s ten feet tall
    And if you go chasing rabbits
    And you know you’re going to fall
    Tell ‘em a hookah smoking caterpillar
    Has given you the call
    Call Alice
    When she was just small

    When men on the chessboard
    Get up and tell you where to go
    And you’ve just had some kind of mushroom
    And your mind is moving slow
    Go ask Alice
    I think she’ll know

    When logic and proportion
    Have fallen sloppy dead
    And the White Knight is talking backwards
    And the Red Queen’s “off with her head!”
    Remember what the doormouse said;
    “Feed YOUR HEAD…
    Feed your head”

    that’s from the “counter-culture”.

  43. alice,

    “There is NO such thing as American culture” seriously? so is there no such thing as islamic culture? perhaps you meant to say that american is diverse and there is no one defined “dress code”? anyway, can you not see the possibilities of mass chaos if 20 or 1,000 niqab wearing people walked into a mall and began shoplifting? or a columbine like attack? isn’t part of they entire costume a flowing robelike garment. perfect for concealing an assault rifle or suicide vest, don’t you think?

    http://video.nationalgeographic.com/video/national-geographic-channel/full-episodes/explorer/ngc-female-suicide-bombers/

  44. As for a Christan, a cross and/or religious beads hanging acoss and down from one’s neck from a strap or chain, obviously are not intended to cover up one’s face. Law of gravity. I find it amusing that the muslim woman agreed with the mall cop that her muslim veil “was a mask.” Exactly. I figure, she is not the kind of a person that will be attending any Memorial Day Services on Sunday. Guaranteed.

  45. What i fail to understand ( may be muslims can correct ) why in the world you want all the freedom in a non muslim country? Have you ever seen what happens to non muslim in muslim country, they cant even pray their god, why dont you Muslims raise your voice-over that. Or when muslim girls love a non muslim guy and want to marry, even when guy and girl keep their respective faith , why you have all the hue and cry ( most of the time Honor-kill girl)( more prominent in asian non muslim country). Why this double standard?

  46. I have seen this typical behavior, all muslims want there religion specific rules so they pressure govt in variety of way. Ideally all non Muslims gel with American culture by following it and becoming a part of it, you want Americans to gel with your culture. Why dont you become a citizens of a muslim country and live there peacefully ? Why harass/ trouble us ?

  47. jr,

    “all muslims want there religion specific rules” i don’t think that is true. but i think the vast majority are for it. they think the koran is perfection. who wouldn’t be for perfection, right?

    hera,

    what was that link with the muslim orgs who came out in support of the kansas law and against sharia?

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