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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. tosser

    Muslim women should be allowed to keep on their head gear as long as it covers their ugly faces. God those broads are f-ugly.

    September 1, 2011 at 10:54 am |
    • ann

      u only c the ugly ones prob cuz the pretty ones walk in the opposite direction when they c u comin.

      September 1, 2011 at 4:23 pm |
  2. Den

    Can you image going to an amusement park at today's prices and seeing that it is overrun and polluted by muslims?

    September 1, 2011 at 10:54 am |
    • JT

      No...because it's overrun and polluted by Christians.

      September 1, 2011 at 10:59 am |
  3. RProseus

    So this is the new discrimination, huh? You hate me because I'm a Muslim... Never mind common sense or as the case above, common rules, it HAS to be because of my religious views...

    September 1, 2011 at 10:54 am |
  4. Dhulfiqar

    I see women with headscarfs on rollercoasters in Disney World, Six Flags, etc. Sounds like a stupid policy to me... unlike baseball caps, hijab scarfs don't fly off.

    A friend of mine (a non Muslim) was there and he actually saw the park official push a woman to the floor - and that's when the Muslim men came to protect their honor. Unfortunately, in America - honoring women is lost to the feminists movement. Men in America have been feminized and women have become masculine. Sad state...

    September 1, 2011 at 10:54 am |
    • RProseus

      Yeah but when that crap gets caught up in machinery, you want to blame the ride, not the person. Common sense dude, doesn't matter if it will or won't. They aren't taking chances as they should, it makes sense.

      September 1, 2011 at 11:01 am |
    • tallulah13

      It is a very stupid policy to allow people to wear a scarf of any kind on an amusement park ride, because of he possibility of part of the fabric coming loose and getting caught in the machinery of the ride, injuring or killing the rider. Common sense, people. It's the same reason that people are advised to not wear a lot of jewelry when working with machinery.

      September 1, 2011 at 11:05 am |
  5. Khaled Anntar

    What kind of a ride that does not allow a head gear? I would says loose clothes may cause a hazard but usually the scarf is fastened tight to a Muslim's woman head and is not loose,. This is the safey rule: "Hats must be secured, and jackets/sweaters must be worn properly and not around the waist while on a ride...." It seems the rule regarding no head wear for some rides was applied litterally; a fastened scarf could never cause a hazard. The park could have re-evaluated the situation and allowed Muslim women to ride with their scarf's on.

    The park management were inflexible and rigid and possibly "racisit" when they called police to come to arrest the so called "Muslim Mob". New York State was the only the State to work with the CIA to spy on Muslims living in New York and New York has acted many times in bias against Muslims after the 9/11 attacks. There is an atmosphere of enemity and anger towards Muslims in general and the New York Muslims in particular. Le'ts not hide discrimination, bias and racisim behind the so called "rules and regulations".....

    September 1, 2011 at 10:53 am |
    • tallulah13

      And let's not confuse safety with discrimination. The rules about headgear were posted and the group informed. They chose either to ignore this information, or didn't pass it on to those who needed most to hear it. Scarves can be dangerous. All it takes is one coming loose at the wrong time and a person could die. The park is protecting it's customers and it's own interests. I have no hated for muslims, but I do have a good deal of respect for common sense.

      September 1, 2011 at 11:09 am |
  6. RandyMarshCT

    This has nothing to do with racism J.Marrone, it's about safety you fool. Read the article next time.

    September 1, 2011 at 10:53 am |
  7. johnnyOh

    It is simple. There are rules and if they don't obey them they don't have to go to Playland. What is the problem? In their twisted mind their religion trumps everything. So if their religion required them to carry RPGs, we would have to comply? I say deport them if they do not want to obey the rules.

    September 1, 2011 at 10:53 am |
  8. Traveler

    I have worked in the Middleeast even Dubai has strict Islamic rule which every person has to follow. During Ramdan no body can eat or smoke in public place or at work if one is found eating he is arrested and flogged. This is just one of the many rules which everybody has to follow there is no two about it. Why can't Muslims follow US Rules when they are in USA or else as they say in their country follow our rules or donont come her.

    September 1, 2011 at 10:52 am |
  9. Julie

    I am sick to death of people coming to this country in search of a better life, then expect the USA to conform to their way of life. Everything I see is in spanish. This isn't Mexico nor is it a Muslim country. We are all immigrants in one form on another but when my grandfather came to this country, he learned our language and the rules for living in this country as well as becoming a citizen. Musllims get upset when you say anything about their Quran but don't seem to have a problem burning the US flag and other things we hold dear. Anyone who can't come here and follow the rules can go home. This country was built on Christian principals and immigrants banding together. If you cannot do this, GO HOME, We don't need you here. Using the freedoms we were given by the fore fathers of this country, one being speech, FOLLOW THE RULES OR GO HOME!

    September 1, 2011 at 10:52 am |
    • RProseus

      Here, Here!

      September 1, 2011 at 10:56 am |
    • JT

      The US was not built on Christian principles but on human common sense. You Christians need to stop prepetuating such lies and stealing common human decency as if you invented it.

      September 1, 2011 at 11:07 am |
    • tallulah13

      Julie, I'm sick of Americans who won't even learn the history of their own country. The nation was founded on the principles of individual rights and liberty, not on any church. This is why the founding fathers were so adamant about separating church and state. By having no national religion, we are all free to worship, or not to worship, as our conscience dictates.

      September 1, 2011 at 11:14 am |
    • ann

      it seems that ppl forget what the christians did to the native americans. is that the policy this country was built on??? i think not.

      September 1, 2011 at 4:29 pm |
  10. yfnpb

    America, European countries, India, Chechnya, Australia, China.. wherever these people go they create problems.
    they dont even make an effort to integrate to existing cultures.

    September 1, 2011 at 10:52 am |
  11. bigdakine

    Nice misleading headline CNN. It was not a *Muslim* head scarf ban. It was a had scarf ban period. EVeryone was banned from going on certain rides with hats, scarfs etc. For reasons of safety. It appears some Muslims think they are above everyone's safety.

    September 1, 2011 at 10:51 am |
  12. johnnyOh

    Let them wear their scarf so when it gets caught in the machinery and rips their heads off maybe they will understand why there is a rule for that.

    September 1, 2011 at 10:51 am |
  13. american guy

    its like smoking ,as a american i have the right to smoke but i also know that there are certian places i can't and i have NO PROBLEM with it . when i read or am told i can't ..i dont start a fight about it .

    September 1, 2011 at 10:51 am |
  14. Mary

    Personally, I think if these stupid women do not want to follow simple rules, we should send them back to their own unhospitible country.

    September 1, 2011 at 10:49 am |
    • American

      Hey Mary...How long did you have to thing to write your comment or did you get any help?

      September 1, 2011 at 10:59 am |
  15. MarkTreeman23

    If people don't have common sense then this world is doomed. How anyone confuses – or blatantly ignores – established park \ ride safety rules with religious descrimination is beyond reason. There's also an issue of being TOO sensitive about religious traditions and also an issue of people not living by cultural norms. That is, perhaps in the Middle East religious practices trump public safety – here, in the US, they do not. Letting people go on potentialy dangerous rides wearing headgear, especially long, flowing material or headgear that may be flung off, would be highly irresponsible on the Park's end. Intelligent people would realize this. You have a choice – lose the headgear or don't go on the ride. Or go to another culture where you can do both – but you can't do both here.

    September 1, 2011 at 10:49 am |
  16. Fuyuko

    Sadly, rules are rules. You can't ride the rides, naked, in short shorts, barefoot or in items that are going to catch on the rides. It has nothing to do with how religioso you are or what flava of abrahamic screed you follow. It has to do with safety.

    September 1, 2011 at 10:48 am |
  17. WWRRD

    In America, the women are asked to remove the headgear to protect their safety.

    In middle eastern countries, western non-muslim women have to wear head covering just to keep themselves from getting beaten and incite a riot.

    I'm assuming they were foreigners because of the communication problems. Not a very respectable group in my view.

    September 1, 2011 at 10:48 am |
  18. Bobby

    Too many muslims in this country fail to understand that we do have rules and laws here unlike what most have faced in their homelands. In the US, we have glorified muslims and tried to make them feel "special". We have ignored the fact that Islam has many factions, and many of those are violent and hateful. Now, we are seeing more cases where muslims want to change rules and laws. Cases where they strike out and protest laws they don't "agree" with or instances where they want to replace established laws with Islamic laws. Watch closely. We will be an Islamic country within 100 years.

    September 1, 2011 at 10:48 am |
    • WWRRD

      You mean they would use our own Democratic processes to gain political power and then use that power to change the processes to eliminatefreedom in America?

      September 1, 2011 at 10:50 am |
  19. JOHN

    WE ALL HAVE TO OBEY CERTAIN LAW'S WE DON'T AGREE WITH, BUT'S ITS THE LAW ! IF YOU DON'T LIKE OUR LAW'S GO SOME WHERE ELSE, ITS THAT SIMPLE!
    ITS WAS FOR THEIR SAFETY , I DON'T LIKE SEAT BELTS, BUT I BUCKLEY UP EVERY TIME I DRIVE MY CAR !

    September 1, 2011 at 10:48 am |
    • Laughing

      You must really hate seatbelts...... or your caps lock is broken

      September 1, 2011 at 10:54 am |
  20. w2xab

    If people want to live in this country, they need to learn to read the rules that are posted. I have been at Playland many times and have seen males whom I believed to be Jewish told they must remove their religious skull caps if they wanted to ride specific rides. I even observed one woman with really long hair that was below her waist line told she would have to secure her hair before riding one ride. I have seen short children denied because they were below a mininum heigth. I have been told I could not ride one ride at another park because of my size. These were all safety issues and nothing else.
    The women were not denied admission to the park, but the park had every right to deny admission to rides because of safety concerns.

    September 1, 2011 at 10:48 am |
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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.