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. Nyarlathotep

    Religious nuts in a fistfight against cops? Too bad they can't *both* lose, as Kissinger once said of the Iran-Iraq war.

    September 3, 2011 at 2:23 am |
  2. TheRationale

    What ignorant, arrogant morons. Yes, let's play the Muslim card so we can yell and scream and get our way and call everyone in our way an Islamophobic bigot. Get over yourselves.

    As if our country doesn't have enough religious troglodytes roaming around already...

    September 2, 2011 at 1:41 pm |
    • RightTurnClyde

      What's also hard to understand is how the government bends over backwards to let Muslims wear their burlap bags and pray in the middle of the street but tears down crosses and ten commandments and arrests Christians reading bibles in private home. If one you are the kind they like (Obammer 'n Napolitano) then you're just fine .. go ahead ..mmm..hmmm And you are the kind dey duzzn't like 'den you is in beeg trubble .. lemme see dat driver lisent.."

      September 2, 2011 at 1:49 pm |
    • RightTurnClyde

      I gotta admit though .. most of their women are two baggers .. and some are just coyote ug-a-lee .. so I can see the need .. whew now dats uglee.

      September 2, 2011 at 1:51 pm |
    • Amanda

      So, you ignored the fact that the crowd got angry because the park rangers was unnecessarily rough with a small woman? I say sue them.

      September 5, 2011 at 1:37 am |
  3. not the whole story

    CNN did not tell the entire story! Later that night there was another fight when a group of midgets weren't allowed on the rides because they did not meet the height requirements. It got ugly!

    September 2, 2011 at 1:04 pm |
    • TheRationale

      Well then,

      it looks like CNN

      came up short.

      September 2, 2011 at 1:43 pm |
  4. Xenia

    Is this a news? Muslims imprison, torture, kidnap, bomb, massacre infidels in their land. USA is fed up with such sleepy peace.

    September 2, 2011 at 1:03 am |
  5. David John Mark

    Allah will curse Americans for this. Allah had it earthquake and storm because America rejecting Islam and torture Muslim in Afghanistan and Iraq. Until American humble to Islam.

    September 1, 2011 at 11:56 pm |
    • Tim Tom Bill

      Allah also had it earthquake and storm in middle of Pacific Ocean because fish, whale and shark rejecting Islam. Until fishes humble to Islam. Whale and shark too.

      September 2, 2011 at 3:43 am |
    • Tim Tom Bill

      And sea turtle.

      September 2, 2011 at 3:45 am |
    • Meemie777

      David John Mark, glad to see you put your name here, or is it?? We infadels are going to turn the tables on you muslims!! Its coming. You made it easy by using your real name. Wheres there's one muslim, theres plenty more... like rats. LOL LOL LOL

      September 2, 2011 at 7:54 pm |
    • Nyarlathotep

      Geological science had it shifting tectonic plates for cause earthquake. Allah no had it exist.

      September 3, 2011 at 2:27 am |
  6. Johny

    I am sick too 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 11:29 pm |
    • Smarty Pants

      1 Corinthians 11:6 For if a woman will not veil herself, then she should cut off her hair; but if it is disgraceful for a woman to be shorn or shaven, let her wear a veil.

      September 2, 2011 at 1:35 pm |
    • RightTurnClyde

      The only ones not sick of it is the Congress, the President and the Supreme Court. We have a country of 300 million being whupped by 500 high and mighty and they just take money and ram it down our throats. Why do people like that?

      September 2, 2011 at 1:57 pm |
    • Amanda

      Well, then yo0ur ancestors should have conformed to the ways 0of native Indian.

      September 5, 2011 at 1:40 am |
  7. Dennis

    Come and see the violence inherent in the system! Help, help! I'm being repressed!

    September 1, 2011 at 7:51 pm |
    • K. Arthur

      Bloody peasant!

      September 3, 2011 at 2:15 am |
  8. Peter

    America shame on you!!

    September 1, 2011 at 5:35 pm |
    • A Theist

      Shame? For what? Everyone in this story is American, so who are you even blaming?

      September 1, 2011 at 6:07 pm |
    • cidpusa

      The police response was outrageous brutal and uncivilized, The police acted like animals and came ready to fight.

      September 1, 2011 at 7:56 pm |
    • A Theist

      @cid Where did you gather that information? Were the police there when the issue arose? No, they were called in because things were already escalating. We don't even know the whole story, so your statement doesn't many sense at all.

      September 2, 2011 at 11:44 am |
  9. Muneef

    """Treat the people the way you would like to be treated"""";

    Though agree with you that certain amusement rides are dangerous as those which depends on speed and need that there should not be any loose gears ends such as headgears or loose unsecured coats and jackets...!
    But still am sure there were other ways to explain that to them with out being loudly rude or by pushing little girls to the ground...!!
    It is no good to explain after insulting had been done and attention brought to all those were there in the park towards them group...the way this case was handled was in away containing the true (((Essence))) of insulting discrimination...!! After all them group were at an amusement park and not at a concentration camp...!?! But as it seems "Customer Always Right" or "One's Pride and Dignity" is not respected in amusement parks...!? 

    September 1, 2011 at 4:44 pm |
    • A Theist

      I don't know about amusement parks, but generally in the service industry you are at the mercy of the customer–and it's almost never pleasant. It's too bad CNN didn't include some actual footage or give a clear timeline (is there ever one from just eyewitness accounts?) so we could understand the violence portion of the debate. I agree they should have adhered to safety regulations without protest, but how did it go from "you can't ride this ride unless you remove the hijab" to calling in the police for fear of riots?

      To return to my first point: customers, if you're a jerk to the employees, they remember it. (not to say there aren't some lame employees, but from my experience, the aggression and mistreatment is largely one-sided)

      September 1, 2011 at 4:53 pm |
    • Ozzy

      Are you insane? As they stated, the rules were clearly posted, everywhere! These people clearly flew off the handle, as they perceived they were being discriminated against, when in fact, it was a rule put in place for their own safety. Not exactly portraying themselves in the best light.

      September 1, 2011 at 7:08 pm |
    • Johny

      There is cause law, or my friend John called it butterfly effects. I don't believe that the park officer did treated this little girls with unpleasant. There a lot of plenty Muslim on that park. Why focus only to one little girl? She must be did something that makes park officer did the way they should to her.

      Anyway, how we suppose to know that "the ninjas" is little girls? Maybe it a male or maybe trans-gender or maybe it was you! or me? We never know, would we?

      Now i can see how "Muslim Group" react to USA democratic law, they feel threatened, they feel unwelcome, they feel discriminated. My suggestion for you all Muslim Group, if you feel that you can't go with our system, please leave our land, go to middle east. it is closer to your idol in kabbalah, and it surely on sharia law system.

      Don't push us to accept your sharia law or we will fight back. The time will come when we erase Islam from West.

      September 1, 2011 at 11:10 pm |
    • Muneef

      How many amusement parks in the world? How many amusement parks in the United States? Why is it the first time such thing is heard and only this amusement park...!?? Were Muslims not using or riding in this amusement park before that date?.. Well maybe this time it was Eid Holidays and the Muslim People seemed to be happy and enjoying with their families and children ...so why not spoil their happiness in their Eid celebration....!!

      September 2, 2011 at 1:48 pm |
    • Muneef

      Human Dignity;

      human dignity.4 Even if this abstract term 'dignity' can not be defined with ...... environment, as well as to combat pollution, corruption and other man- made ..... governance on issues that concern a person's individual, social and physical ...

      September 2, 2011 at 2:25 pm |
  10. Larry

    What is the mattrer with people coming into this country. They all want to change the rules to accomodate them selves. If no one is allowed to wear a hat or anything on their heads because of safety rules then take it off. I don't care if it is religious or anything else. Sure as the world, if one of the women had an accident, they would have sued the park. Enough ! Illegals break federal law by illegally coming into this country and our goverment turns the other way. If I, as an American taxpayer break a federal law they would throw away the key.

    September 1, 2011 at 3:00 pm |
    • USA

      If I can't wear my Yankees hat during the dragon coaster ride, then they can't wear their head scarfs. It's that simple. Some sports fans are probably just as devoted to their teams as some religious people are to their beliefs. If they can part with their symbolized headgear for 2 minutes, then so can everyone else.

      September 1, 2011 at 4:25 pm |
    • Bethany

      This is silly. Hijabs are much more secure than other 'normal' head gear. They simply do not fly off the way the common baseball cap does. If the hijab is tight, they should be allowed on. If not, the woman should be asked to sign a waiver of her right to sue should something bad happen. This really could have been avoided.

      September 1, 2011 at 4:54 pm |
    • A Theist

      Signing a waiver isn't enough. The company is liable for doing everything possible to keep the entire ride safe. It's possible the hijab could have posed a potential threat to other passengers (through tangling or who knows what else). Aside from that, there's a reason for the strict policy, and they made it clear. If I made it a religious practice to require that followers run across the firing range at police academies while practice was in session, would a simple waiver solve the problem? Legally and practically, the answer is "no."

      September 1, 2011 at 6:12 pm |
    • Johny

      @ Bethany: Have you ever go to Muslim Countries? Have you ever saw how "Hijab" loose away while drive a motorbike? I did!

      September 1, 2011 at 11:14 pm |
    • Amanda

      You missed the pinnacle of the story which was "it got ugly when the park ranger got rough on the small woman".

      September 5, 2011 at 1:44 am |
  11. DamianKnight

    Here is my issue. It's not a question of the First Amendment. We need to read it. "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof..."

    The amusement park is not Congress and therefore cannot be held to the First Amendment. The amusement park can say, "We don't want Muslims at all!" and make it a rule and kick out any Muslims who get in. It's a private organization and can make rules and restrictions based on anything they want.

    September 1, 2011 at 3:00 pm |
  12. American Soldier

    Ameeericaaaaa......@#$% YEAH!!!

    September 1, 2011 at 1:55 pm |
  13. Anthony from Michigan

    People are naturally going to side with the Muslim women because they've been discriminated against for the past 10 years, so people want to side with them so that they're not deemed "racist", but you got to wear your seatbelt, keep arms and legs inside the vehicle, and remove headgear. If you don't want to move your headgear, you can't ride the ride, and there's no need to constantly pull out the 'race card' just because it's convenient for your situation.

    September 1, 2011 at 1:45 pm |
  14. Laughing

    It seems pretty cut and dry to me. When you have a park stateing its rules about headgear and people are ignoring it, the park has an obligation to make sure they aren't liable for injuries. I guess the part that makes me the saddest is that its clear these people felt discriminated against because they were "obviously muslim" and I'm sure they get looks and are in fact discriminated in other areas. I would bet a fair amount of money it wasn't this specific event that was the issue, it was a mix of the end of ramadan and many different bouts of discrimination that led to them feeling this way and exploding at a seemingly innocuous thing.

    September 1, 2011 at 1:38 pm |
    • DamianKnight


      Well said. To me, it's a safety issue. For a long time, my father didn't wear his wedding band because he worked on telephone lines. The rule was "no jewelry." To some that might be offensive (I have never had a job that has insisted I don't wear my wedding ring), but to me, safety is of greater concern than whether or not an article of clothing is religious in nature.

      September 1, 2011 at 2:38 pm |
    • Know What

      Isadora Duncan was quite attached to her scarf too (literally).

      September 1, 2011 at 2:42 pm |
  15. Frogist

    Rules is rules, people. You can't ride if you wear the hijab. That's not hard to understand. And if it was posted clearly, then it's not the park's fault for the misunderstanding. As for the violence, well the cops can be overly zealous. We've seen that before. I think an investigation into what started the violence needs to happen before jumping to conclusions though. I'd be interested in seeing that cell phone footage.

    September 1, 2011 at 1:22 pm |
  16. CrystalRiver

    My god's better than your god.
    My god's better than yours.
    My god's better 'cause he eats Kennel Ration.
    My god's better than yours.

    September 1, 2011 at 1:13 pm |
    • think for yourself

      Hmm, how about whichever god tortures the most people after death for all eternity is the winner.

      September 1, 2011 at 1:17 pm |
    • The Original

      The above CrystalRiver is a fake. Atheists cannot interpret texts or remember them correctly.

      September 2, 2011 at 1:00 am |
    • The Original

      Koren crack is way better than American crack. Is it any wonder why I hate the west?

      September 2, 2011 at 11:45 am |
    • The Original

      Korean crack is way better than American crack. Is it any wonder why I hate the west?

      September 2, 2011 at 11:45 am |
    • The Real Original

      The above two Originals are fakes. Koreans should stop eating dogs unless they are literally starving.

      September 2, 2011 at 11:50 am |
    • The Real Original

      I can call anyone fake that I want to. The Real Original above me is a fake. Dog meat is delicious, but heroin is always better. That's something you can live by!

      September 2, 2011 at 1:29 pm |
  17. JustTheFacts

    As a muslim, while I believe based on the video that the police used excessive force, the Muslims in this incident share a large part of the blame.
    First of all, according to media reports, the organizers knew the rules beforehand therefore they should of let the community memebers know that there is a ban on some rides.
    Second the rules are there for safety reasons, they are not to discriminate which is why the park made it clear to the organizers beforehand that the rule is in place and there are signs all over.
    Third – I believe the frustration was more aimed at the organizers for not letting the Muslim women know about the rule and unfortuantely this may have been taken out on the park employess instead.

    Having said that, I just want to say that Muslims are like everyone else, some are calm, some are loud, some have manners, some do not, some are emotional some are collected so please do not lump all Muslims together.

    September 1, 2011 at 12:51 pm |
    • CosmoChick

      and here we have the perfect example of someone accepting their share of responsibility in a rational manner.

      Too often on this board, i've seen people say "those non-radical muslims are just as much to blame because they stay quiet in the face of extremists and don't condone them". Here is someone that condones certain actions, and do we notice? No. No comments on this person's comment.

      That's fine, but please, next time, don't tell the general muslim population that they are as much to blame as the others because they don't speak up. They do, you just don't listen.

      September 1, 2011 at 1:44 pm |
    • A Theist

      @Cosmo I equally admire that JustTheFacts has stood up and spoken on behalf of the more reasonable majority of Muslims. I think the issue most people take is that the dissonance in the organized portion of the religion on both ends is not that drastic. That is, as a whole, the true Muslim faith has had a hard time coming and and drawing the big bold line that separates the extremists from the moderates. Part of the problem in that is that they are a minority here in America, and the majority are peaceful here, so when speaking out against "them" (radicals in the MIddle East) they end up sounding just like other Americans. The real challenge will be to get the peaceful Muslims in the MIddle East to out their Fundamentalist groups.

      All the same, thanks JustTheFacts, I appreciate your boldness. 🙂

      September 1, 2011 at 7:06 pm |
  18. Paul

    a bunch of dirty muslims playing the religion card "why hate on me? just because I worship the devil"

    September 1, 2011 at 12:36 pm |
    • I'm The Best!

      First of all... hate much?
      secondly, don't all christian religions worship the same deity, just have different interpretations of the same thing? This would include Muslims, christians, jews, mormans, and so on. So what you're saying is that they all worship the devil then?

      September 1, 2011 at 12:49 pm |
    • ann

      ur disgusting. its people like u that r the problem. as for the hijab, its part of the religion. and how is it a danger? its just like if a woman were to wear her hair down. it also could get caught on something. so y not require all riders be bald? does that make sense???

      September 1, 2011 at 4:06 pm |
    • Lee

      To Ann: The problem is not just that it could get caught on something. The safety issue is two-fold. One, the scarf could get loose and blow into the machinery (causing a jam or other safety issue). Or two, the scarves are not just worn like headbands, they are worn around the neck, too. If the scarf got caught on something and DIDN'T come loose, it could choke the person to death. That's why headgear (hats and scarves) are treated differently than just long hair.

      September 1, 2011 at 4:53 pm |
  19. Muneef

    How amazing really... In all Islamic and non Islamic countries there are amusement parks with all types of amusements but never heard that any had to take off any headgears before they can ride...??? 

    Just wonder if any amusement park in India had enforced upon sikh the taking off of their headgears before raiding...?!

    Think that action meant just to pressurize people to leave back their cultural significance....!!

    September 1, 2011 at 12:13 pm |
    • DamianKnight

      I think it's because most societies aren't as litigious as America.

      September 1, 2011 at 12:25 pm |
    • think for yourself

      I go to Six flags sometimes with my family. They do make people remove their hats before riding the roller coasters. Never causes any problems. Of course the people that are wearing the hats don't fear eternal punishment for not doing so.

      September 1, 2011 at 1:02 pm |
    • Stimpy

      And in India they have 1000's of train related deaths a year. It's called safety standards. North America has higher safety standards. Adhere to them or go ride your roller coaster in another country.

      September 1, 2011 at 1:08 pm |
    • VR13

      Yes, there are safety rules in other parks. In one of the parks, I think also at Six Flags, I was once asked to remove eye glasses. I didn't make a discrimination issue out of it.

      September 1, 2011 at 1:54 pm |
    • Bethany

      If it is a safety issue, it is a safety issue. But the thing I don't get is that all the hijabs I've seen are very very tightly secured, more akin to a belt. They can't fly-off like a baseball cap. I don't think it is just differing safety standards that allow hijab-wearers to go on roller coasters in other countries.

      It seems to me this could be studied quite easily: Secure the hijab in a few traditional fashions around a few dummies. Run roller coaster 10 times. Then post sign indicating that XY and Z ways of securing the hijab are acceptable and all others will not be tolerated. Disseminate to theme parks nation-wide. Too bad no one will do it.

      September 1, 2011 at 5:02 pm |
    • A Theist

      @Bethany No one will do it because that sort of test isn't nearly as thorough enough to adequately test the safety of a passenger. And the debate isn't about "how tight is it?". If it was an issue of tightness, they'd be ok with people wearing hoods, etc. I understand you want to try an accommodate the religios wishes of the people in the story, but in real life, sometimes conflicts arise. For example, I can't fast due to medical conditions, and I believe in a God that would forgive me for this.

      All it takes is one loose hijab and someone, perhaps not even the wearer, could get hurt or killed. It's simply not worth the risk for something as silly and care-free as a roller coaster ride.

      September 1, 2011 at 7:00 pm |
  20. David Johnson

    I see nothing wrong with banning, for safety reasons, head scarfs on certain rides. This is not discrimination. If other non-Muslims were allowed on the ride with scarves...then it would indeed be discrimination.

    The blacks once suffered horribly when they were specifically told they could not do certain things. This was because of their skin color, not their apparel. The blacks understand true discrimination.

    Large signs, advising people of this ban and which rides it pertained to, should have been posted at the entrance.

    The Muslims always seem to choose violent solutions to any situation. This really does concern me.

    The Republicans would like to show Muslims are a danger. And only they can protect the American people from them. The Muslims should be on their best behavior.


    September 1, 2011 at 12:05 pm |
    • Mark from Middle River

      But David, I ....umm.....ecch, I got nothing on this one.

      They have amusement parks over in the Middle East, but at the same time they do not have the same amount of lawyers that we have here in the states. You are right ...on this one David... if the sign had of said "no Muslims" then I could see a issue.

      Question, Muslim women are not the only ones that wear traditional head covering. Do not Indian women also?

      September 1, 2011 at 1:27 pm |
    • David Johnson

      @Mark from Middle River

      Actually Mark, I'm giving them the benefit of the doubt. If Muslims in head scarfs could not get on the rides, I'm assuming white ladies with curlers, wearing scarfs, would also be turned away. There have been instances where the reason for a thing seemed reasonable, but was a "beard" for a sinister motive. Taking a reading test to vote would be an example.

      For the moment, I'm content that the danger in wearing a head scarf, was the only motive.

      To rattle on:

      If, the rides chosen for this rule were the most popular rides i.e., the reason most people go the the park, hmm... Would it mean less attendance by people in head covering?

      Time will tell.

      You are hard to dislike. If you weren't a Republican, I think I could drink beer with you. LOL


      September 1, 2011 at 4:35 pm |
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About this blog

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.