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. J.W

    Zead Ramadan must feel cool. His last name is Ramadan. It would be like if my last name was Christmas.

    September 1, 2011 at 10:47 am |
    • Laughing

      Like Lloyd Christmas (see: Dumb and Dumber.....one of the greatest movies of all time)

      September 1, 2011 at 10:48 am |
    • Awkward Situations

      @Mr. Ramadan: Just when I thought you couldn't possibly be any dumber, you go and do something like this... and totally redeem yourself!

      September 1, 2011 at 11:31 am |
  2. Deathstalker

    If you ask me its a load of crap maybe a misunderstanding but only at the start then it just turned into religious nonsense.

    September 1, 2011 at 10:45 am |
  3. Matt

    Next time I go to an amusement park I am going to start fighting when they tell me my son is to short to go on a ride. Obviously that would be racism against short people!

    September 1, 2011 at 10:45 am |
    • Greg

      I would be heightism

      September 1, 2011 at 3:22 pm |
  4. Nathan

    Typical muslims. Forever unable to integrate peacefully into other societies.

    September 1, 2011 at 10:44 am |
  5. Shulie Agar

    Why were they at an amusement park? I thought Muslims weren't ALLOWED to have Western civilization FUN? They should take those head scarves and hang themselves.

    September 1, 2011 at 10:43 am |
    • DoUntoOthers....

      Wow, that's is about the most insensitve comment I've read in quite some time. The snarky first part, yeah...OK...I can deal with that... But to suggest they HANG themselves??? Whoa, that is taking it waaaaaaay too far. I hope you don't call yourself a Christian, because Christ definatley didn't preach that EVER.

      September 1, 2011 at 10:50 am |
    • Frogist

      @DoUntoOthers: Actually even that first bit was pretty ignorant.

      September 1, 2011 at 2:50 pm |
  6. Lisa

    I agree Gale. It's tantamount to going someplace where you know a certain rule is in effect, doing the opposite and claiming discrimination. I realize these women didn't know the rules and it appears they were fighting amongst themselves with their group leaders for not giving them that information. What happened after that is anyone's guess.

    September 1, 2011 at 10:43 am |
  7. nymets71087

    I think they were just cranky because they were really hungry.

    September 1, 2011 at 10:43 am |
  8. mikel

    suck it up buttercups....

    September 1, 2011 at 10:42 am |
  9. ctb67

    I thought headgear was like football helmets. Perhaps headwear would have been easier to understand? That's how my kid's school dress code reads. I am glad Mr. Ramadan kept his cool....we need more cool people in this world.

    September 1, 2011 at 10:41 am |
  10. Feast of Beast

    Then I guess you ain't gettin' on this ride, Momma. By the way, the 10th anniversarry of 9-11 is right around the corner, I would be keepin' a low profile if I were you. Some folks might be a little edgy.

    September 1, 2011 at 10:41 am |
  11. Shulie Agar

    This is just the beginning. They hate this country, want to come to this country, but the rules don't apply to them. Forget the safety rules the park has, they want special treatment. I'm telling you, this so called "melting pot" is beginning to boil.

    September 1, 2011 at 10:41 am |
    • OsamaYoMamma

      How do you know these women hate this country? Most muslims I talk to seem to love America and love living here. Even with issue like this, they face far less opression than they do in their homelands.

      September 1, 2011 at 10:47 am |
  12. J. Marrone

    I have no fear of a woman wearing a hijab. What I do fear is somebody wearing a hoody! Given crime statistics, the police should ban the hoody immediately! Right! Like that's going to happen!

    September 1, 2011 at 10:39 am |
    • Drew


      September 1, 2011 at 10:45 am |
  13. Brian Paul

    The headline is so misleading CNN! That is why people hat the media. CNN you help cause such unrest in this country. It was never a ban. It was just a need to remove them while they were on the rides. I am so tired of muslims crying about rules we have had in place for years. I am not a racist, never have been and sure don't want to be. But, I sure am heading that direction. Tired of trying to appease these radical muslims. Get the hell out!!!!

    September 1, 2011 at 10:39 am |
    • Earthling

      You get out. This country is for non-racists only.

      September 1, 2011 at 10:46 am |
    • PETER

      Amen brother, this is crazy that we Americans have to cater and entertain the crazy ideas and religion of other people. Either obey the law / rules or get out.

      September 1, 2011 at 11:17 am |
    • Awkward Situations

      That's all it takes to turn you into a full on racist? Fascinating.

      Is it their race that your disagree with or their religious beliefs?

      September 1, 2011 at 11:40 am |
    • Frogist

      @Brian Paul: Wow. At least you admit to being a racist. Nice to know Mr Ramadan is much less prejudiced than you are. Does it feel funny being taught to be reasonable by a muslim?

      September 1, 2011 at 3:02 pm |
    • ann

      maybe u should get out 2. wasnt ur country either.
      belongs to the native americans. thats y america is so great. its everyones country.

      September 1, 2011 at 4:15 pm |
  14. vinny

    I dont know when we agreed that one certain group of people could expect to break the laws and rules we have here and have their feelings hurt if we told them no. Its ridiculous. you cant get on the ride with your headgear on because it could get caught and decapitate you. No one would really care except that your family would sue everyone. So take it off or stay home

    September 1, 2011 at 10:39 am |
    • Frogist

      @vinny: Great strawman you're building there, vinny. Do I really need to tell you that the muslims in this article aren't being given special dispensation for their hijabs? Neither are they asking for any?

      September 1, 2011 at 3:10 pm |
  15. MacMaven

    Funny how the Christians and Muslims exchange words on this forum. Religion in it's entirely needs to be abolished. How much blood shed does there have to be over fairy tale characters that no one has every physically met. Sounds as stupid as fighting over two video game or book characters. Grow up people. The days of the neanderthals running to the caves because the lightning gods are upset in the middle of s storm are over. Fire is NOT magic. And Santa and the tooth fairy do not exist!

    September 1, 2011 at 10:38 am |
    • Lisa

      Sounds like you're the one with anger issues. I'm a Christian. Never fought a person in my life. Never tried to put my ideals on anyone and don't dislike Muslims, Jews, Atheists, Hindus or anyone else, for that matter. Leave me and my faith alone and I'll do the same. Wish more people would live that way honestly.

      September 1, 2011 at 10:46 am |
    • thinker

      Thanks MacMaven. You are so right. May the Invisible Pink Unicorn be with you.

      September 1, 2011 at 11:14 am |
    • Awkward Situations

      Lisa: "Leave me and my faith alone and I'll do the same."

      No one has addressed you. What are you talking about?
      Tell your leaders to stop interfering with our government and stop acting like "woe-is-me" persecuted christian. It's rather pathetic.

      I call BS on your claim that you don't dislike anyone. You ALL say that and it is so fake. Right along with the "I'll pray for you" (translation: Fu*k you)... or "I'm just worried about your eternal salvation" (translation: I disagree with how you live your life and I think it is so bad that it warrants you going to hell for it. Unless you become like me and then I'll put in a good word for you to get into heaven).

      If only you could put in the same amount effort into objectively analyzing your belief system as you do in defending your unsubstantiated claims. I dare you to read the entire bible, front to back.

      September 1, 2011 at 11:59 am |
  16. MP

    This is exactly how Catholic Nuns would have responded to taking off their headscarf:) And of course, as soon as the catholic priests attention was drawn from away from ogling at all the little boys in the park they would have gotten in security guards faces and thrown a few punches.

    September 1, 2011 at 10:38 am |
  17. Charms

    2 years ago, a bunch of Muslims were protesting "death to America" in the streets of Newyork and nothing happened. Imagine a Christian misbehaving in an Islamic nation! Imagine the consequence!!
    Western tolerance is both a gift and a curse. Angela Merkel got it right when she said her country has given Muslims the chance to integrate but it doesn't work. I know my liberal friends will disagree that Islam is a problem but that is why I trust republicans more on national security issues.

    September 1, 2011 at 10:36 am |
    • Brian Paul

      You speak the truth!

      September 1, 2011 at 10:44 am |
    • Lisa

      When in the world did you see Muslims shouting 'death to america" in New York? Can't say I saw that happen. Would have been a big story, don't you think?

      September 1, 2011 at 10:47 am |
    • Charms

      LISA: You must have missed it. We even got used to it when I lived in London. Now they put up signs in predominantly Islamic neighborhoods that says "SHARIA" just to upset non muslims.

      September 1, 2011 at 11:49 am |
    • Awkward Situations

      The root of the problem is religion itself. ALL religion. None of this is going to end until people stop living to die. Just take a look at history. It will NEVER end until people come to their senses and start living in reality... that or mutually assured destruction.

      September 1, 2011 at 12:08 pm |
    • Frogist

      @Charms: First of all this isn't a Christian nation. You can't compare apples to oranges. Secondly, we must have all missed that New York thing since I don't recall it happening at all. Thirdly, you must have some awfully thin skin if you can't tolerate a sign that says "Sharia". BTW don't you think it's a bit self-centered to think those signs are meant for you? I'm not really surprised that this is the kind of thinking that keeps getting Repubs votes.

      September 1, 2011 at 3:17 pm |
    • Charms

      @ Frogist:
      you are one of the dumbest people i've read from today. But may be you are a muslim and are offended by my comment.
      SHaria sign in a neighborhood does upset people that do not want any trouble. I wonder if you even know what sharia really is. My votes go to republicans? Wow you must be psychic...truly.
      And yes, no less than 11 men in their youths took tothe streets protesting against US...it had to do with a European cartoonist and the ripple effects came in the form of those protests. Wake up and please quit being a cry baby and an imbecilic troll.

      September 1, 2011 at 4:19 pm |
    • Peace2All


      You Said: " 2 years ago, a bunch of Muslims were protesting "death to America" in the streets of Newyork and nothing happened. Imagine a Christian misbehaving in an Islamic nation! Imagine the consequence!! "

      Yes, that is one of the main differences between the U.S. and a Christian (hypothetically) misbehaving in an Islamic nation. A lot of those Islamic nations are Theocracy's, while the U.S. is a country that allows 'free speech.'

      I'm not sure why you would trust a republican necessarily any more on national security issues, as our laws are the laws equally applied. Should a Muslim cross the line of 'free speech' and attempt to or actually do 'harm' someone, then republican or democrat... the person will get punished.

      You Said to @Frogist: " you are one of the dumbest people i've read from today. But may be you are a muslim and are offended by my comment. "

      Obviously you haven't been on these blogs very long. @Frogist is one of the more articulate, fair, flexible, and intelligent bloggers on here. We've both been on here since the CNN blogs first opened well over a year ago now.

      Point being, instead of trying to rely on ridiculous 'personal invective' (personal attacks), you may want to see if your arguments stand up to peer review.

      Seems to be a much better way to go.



      September 2, 2011 at 5:20 am |
  18. Michelle

    How about those who are Muslim just grow up & quit being crybabies because you can't have everything your own way? Either conform to the laws of the land or GO HOME!!! NO SHARIA LAW IN THE USA!!! That's what all this is about anyway – trying to start trouble because they think we in the USA will cave in to their demands to the point where no one in the USA will have the freedoms that men & women in our Armed Forces have died & sacrificed for; in some cases with their lives. Time to stop with all this 'politically correct' crap & say the truth for what it is – keep it real.

    September 1, 2011 at 10:36 am |
    • DoUntoOthers....

      Well actually this was about religious freedom and rules established by a theme park, not US law. But I digress.....

      September 1, 2011 at 10:52 am |
    • Awkward Situations

      Hey since you're keeping it real, can you elaborate on what the "truth" really is?

      One set of grown ups with an imaginary friend fighting against another set of grown ups with an imaginary friend. You're just as ridiculous as they are.


      September 1, 2011 at 12:16 pm |
  19. Sean

    Atleast there are some people left who still would fight for what they believed then. Unlike the now backboneless Americans who have lost all the principles and virtues of their grandparents and will submit to any authotiry when slightly threatened. Why do you think there is Police brutality? Because the Police CAN behave like that. There are no more Men left amongst the Americans to defened right and resisit wrong. Patriot Act anyone? The US is turning into a police state and there are no men around to stop it.

    Todays Americans' idea of "Manhood" is joining the military. This is also what Hitler said to his people to convince them to join.

    September 1, 2011 at 10:35 am |
    • Vulpes

      USA! USA! USA! ...

      September 1, 2011 at 10:52 am |
    • Awkward Situations

      Godwin's Law.

      It never fails. 😉

      September 1, 2011 at 12:18 pm |
  20. gale

    This is America, if you are a natural born citizen you are automatically lumped into the "your racist" statement. Why do they come here if they don't like us. I have never figured that out. If you want to live here, God bless, but do it legally and follow rules and laws. Pay your taxes and get along with others who do not think the way you do. I can get along with anyone, unless I am behind the wheel of a car, then I want to kill everyone who is pulling out in front of me just to drive 20. But, I digress, America and Americans need to welcome those who want to live as long as they don't force us to follow their rules and stop calling every little thing racism. It makes us racists everytime we are accused of it. These ladies were not following rules and not knowing them is not an excuse. Period.

    September 1, 2011 at 10:34 am |
    • Frogist

      @gale: I don't think anyone lumps all Americans into the racist category. You are making some broad and odd generalizations that I don't understand. You might have noticed a lot of enmity towards muslims on this board. But it's no less in public discourse from politicians, celebrities etc. I can absolutely understand why muslims would feel very wary in a situation where their hijabs are the subject of contention. If the women did not understand the rules, then they might have wondered if they were just asking the muslims to remove their headwear. And from that small misunderstanding, it is easy to see how conflicts happen.

      September 1, 2011 at 3:43 pm |
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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.