August 31st, 2011
07:42 PM ET

Headgear ban sparks melee between police, Muslim park patrons

From Kiran Khalid CNN

Rye, New York (CNN) -What was meant to be a celebration marking the end of Ramadan turned into a melee at an amusement park on Tuesday when a group of Muslim women were told they weren't allowed on certain rides with their headscarves.

Rye Playland was full of visitors celebrating Eid al-Fitr when the festive mood turned angry. Westchester County Police said the women wearing the hijab, a traditional Muslim headscarf, became argumentative when park employees enforced the no-headgear policy and men sprang to their defense.

"(The rule) didn't get relayed to the people who attended, so some people got upset," said Westchester County Police Capt. Thomas Gleason.

Fifteen people were arrested and two charged with felony assault after two park rangers sustained minor injuries.

Among those arrested were three women wearing the hijab. Police shut down the park for several hours during the incident.

"It had to do with headgear. People - patrons - are not allowed to wear headgear on rides for safety reasons," Gleason said.

Zead Ramadan, spokesman for the New York chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), said members of the Muslim American Society who had organized the outing asked him to come to the park to mediate. Ramadan said the women felt they had been targeted by park employees because of their religious views.

"They're the most obvious Muslims around because they have hijabs on. They felt they were discriminated against," Ramadan said.

"Maybe there was a level of frustration that went around across the board," Ramadan said. "Then you have the parks people who are trying to explain this and do their job."

Ramadan said he saw a cell-phone video showing police "yanking a hijabi-wearing woman out of the crowd."

"She was very small. They turn her around and throw her down on the ground." Ramadan said that's when the crowd got very angry.

"Nobody was assaulted prior to the police being called, and that in itself is a problem," Ramadan said.

Gleason said he was aware "there was some cell-phone footage and maybe some video,"

"There's no official video that we have released at this time," he said. "There are some videos in the park that we're retaining for our own information."

Gleason said he had seen seen "bits and pieces" of phone footage from the incident.

He said park officials told the Muslim organizers about the headgear ban but that information wasn't relayed to the group of visitors.

Ramadan chalked the whole incident up to "miscommunication."

"The women felt they were being targeted, but in fact these were safety precautions," he said. "And maybe (the park) didn't do the best job in disclosing those precautions."

But Westchester County Parks Deputy Commissioner Peter Tartaglia says the policy was made abundantly clear to the group's organizer, and that the rules are clearly posted.

"We repeatedly told him, because we knew this group would have religious headgear," Tartaglia insisted adding that a refund booth was set up in case anyone objected to the policy, which he said is posted prominently in the park.

"There's a sign at every ride," Tartaglia said. "When you enter the park, there's a height line and it lists headgear policy.

"What triggered the incident was fighting within the group and the subject was why they didn't know the policy," said Tartaglia, adding that he arrived at the scene about 20 minutes after the fight broke out. He said police were called when it appeared the altercation could lead to a riot.

Ride safety precautions posted on its website include the following safety rule:

"Hats must be secured, and jackets/sweaters must be worn properly and not around the waist while on a ride. Some rides do not allow backpacks, purses or head gear of any kind."

Rye Playland, also known as Playland Amusement Park, is located about 17 miles northeast of the Bronx in Westchester County.

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Belief • Eid al-Fitr • Entertainment • Holidays • Islam • New York • Ramadan • United States

soundoff (328 Responses)
  1. Mahek

    Assalam Aliykum,

    As per Makkah Calendar announcement, Eid Al Fitr 2012 should be celebrated on Sunday, 19th August 2012. Following is the detailed announcement about same.


    – Mahek

    August 13, 2012 at 1:59 am |
  2. Mahek

    Assalam Aliykum,

    As per Makkah Calendar announcement, Eid Al Fitr 2012 should be celebrated on Sunday, 19th August 2012. Following is the detailed announcement about same.

    Eid Al Fitr 2012
    Eid Ul Fitr 2012 – Francais
    2012 عيد الفطر / 1433 عيد الفطر

    – Mahek

    August 13, 2012 at 1:57 am |
  3. Name*chuck lorenzo

    In Rome do as the Romans do. We dont travel abroad and try to change their rules so outsiders should respect our culture and rules,

    July 22, 2012 at 11:42 pm |
  4. NHTK-12

    I don't believe they( the women) were interested in policies. They have been known to refuse to take of their face coverings when taking pictures for their driver's licence. They know very well what the laws are, and why are they required.... But they want us to change our laws for THEM. Let them go to one of their Islamic lands and claim their rights..see how many they'll get...I believe it's just a way for them to cry wolf, wanting to stir up "discrimination" issues .
    I also want to mention, that Muslim women are some of the most unfriendly, blank-faced creatures I've ever seen. When you see them in a grocery store or any other place, no matter how friendly someone is toward them, they have this icy look on their faces and in their eyes, never returning a kind gesture. I wonder, do they count this as a virtue of godliness required to enter their paradise......

    September 6, 2011 at 9:03 pm |

    How about if the Park Officers were a Muslim too?? Were them feel discriminated?

    September 5, 2011 at 8:18 am |

    Cited from http://quran.com/2/194/
    So whoever has assaulted you, then assault him in the same way that he has assaulted you. And fear Allah and know that Allah is with those who fear Him.

    Cited from http://www.allonlinebible.com/Matthew/5.html#044
    But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you;

    Big growing kids know the difference!

    September 5, 2011 at 8:16 am |
    • John

      You are cherry picking, like all the other bigots do.

      What about these passages from the bible?

      Jesus: "I bring no peace, but a sword".

      Also, what about "eye for an eye, tooth for a tooth"?

      See, anyone can cherry-pick passages out of context in order to justify their disgusting tendency to hate people.

      September 5, 2011 at 10:20 am |
  7. Amanda

    The organizers have failed to make sure that the visitors know the rules. That's plain stupid and asking for attention. Still, according to the story, the park rangers were (rough with a small woman wearing hijab, making the crow angry. That's just unacceptable.

    September 5, 2011 at 1:35 am |
    • Brian

      The revellers should be able to read English in America, they wouldn't be so ignorant of the obvious signs at each ride. Or they should understand that rules for safety apply to them instead of forcing a confrontation because they want an exception to the rules. These acts just reinforce the dislike of a religion...

      September 5, 2011 at 12:11 pm |
  8. SOFSoldier

    Follow the rules or Lock em up. They're lucky they have retained the right to wear them after 9/11. In Afghganistan, the Taliban hide behind burquas and the hibjab to diguise themselves as women to launch suicide attacks.

    September 4, 2011 at 8:56 am |
  9. Haime52

    Do nuns get restricted too? Inquiring minds want to know! Is there no way a hijab can be fastened down to pass?
    A ball cap is head gear are those prohibited? What about a headscarf or headband, scrungees, ponytail holder? They're all headgear. So where is the line drawn?
    Input! Input! Johnny Five needs input!

    September 3, 2011 at 7:51 pm |
    • Jim

      As per your question do Nuns have to remove there Habit {head gear}. Yes they do and they never had a riot over it . I was at the park a week before. I had to remove my Yankee cap in order to ride the bumper cars , roller coaster etc. I guess the park employes were Met fans and single me out because I am a Yankee fan. PS WHEN IN ROME DO AS THE ROMANS DO !

      September 4, 2011 at 11:41 am |
    • Bob

      when in america, do as americans do–use your free speech and scream at the employees and fight and argue and spit, and wear the headgear just because you feel like it. then later, sue the company for millions.

      September 5, 2011 at 12:38 am |
    • John

      Actually, I take exception with the headgear ban in the first place. A hijab is not like a baseball cap. A hijab cannot blow off, does not obstruct the vision of people behind you, and will not interfere with any safety equipment (safety bars, seat belts, etc).

      This is a clumsy, insensitive attempt by the park to keep Muslims out, since as the park knows, Muslim women are basically the only customers who would be wearing any kind of headgear they can't remove. I would have been angry, too.

      And the park grabbing the women? I hear a lawsuit coming. That's absolutely unacceptable. I'll be glad to see the park pay for this. Muslims are people, too.

      September 5, 2011 at 10:25 am |
  10. captain america

    Tell me, does anyone know the park policy on capes?

    September 3, 2011 at 10:10 am |
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