Institutions Push Back Against Head Coverings
by Daniel Pipes
As "women" wearing Islamic head coverings again and again plunder banks, jewelry stores, a real estate leasing office, and other retail services (for documentation see my weblog entry, "Niqabs and Burqas as Security Threats"), it was only a matter of time until the victims begin to defend themselves. Their efforts are documented here in chronological order.
"Retailers back call for hijab ban": For security purposes, the National Retailers Association in Australia has called for a ban on hijabs, helmets and hoodies in commercial establishments, echoing an appeal by talk-radio show host Michael Smith. NRA executive director Scott Driscoll said that "Retailers should not have to fear any form of retribution or backlash for requiring the removal of any obscuring headwear, including hijabs, as a condition of entry. This is about ensuring a more safe and secure retail environment for all and being able to readily identify any and all perpetrators of armed hold-ups or shop theft." A poll on the radio station's website asking, "Should we impose restrictions on the wearing of burkas in Australia?" resulted in 76 percent affirmative and 23 percent negative. (January 15, 2009)
"No Hats, No Hoods, No Sunglasses" program cuts bank robberies: As banks adopt a ban on head coverings, they have seen a substantial decrease in robberies. In Missouri, for instance, the number went from 125 robberies before the program started, to 83 the year it began, then down to 70. (January 23, 2009)
Woman in hijab refused service in bank: A news account in the Contra Costa Times reports what sounds like a new policy against head coverings:
Credit union separates covered women: Carolina Federal Credit Union of Cherryville, North Carolina, has decided that, beginning March 2, anyone wearing hats, hoods or sunglasses must go to special teller near the front of the bank where they will come under special scrutiny. Donna Beringer, CFCU president, said that "This program will provide a safer environment for members and employees." Rose Hamid, head of the Muslim Women of the Carolinas, took exception: "So we will be separate but equal. That is absolutely unacceptable. I would find that offensive and I would do everything I could to make sure it does not go through." Ibrahim Hooper of the Council on American-Islamic Relations agreed with her: "We understand what is behind this. But this is such a broad and vague policy that it will inevitably lead to problems." (February 22, 2009)
"Muslim Woman Asked to Leave Line at Credit Union Because of Head Scarf": Employees at the Navy Federal Credit Union in Southern Maryland asked Kenza Shelley, 54, a Muslim woman, on March 8 to leave her place in line and be served in a back room because her hijab violated the union's new "no hats, hoods, or sunglasses" policy. To which she replied, "No, I want to be served like everybody else," and left the credit union. "There was so many people there, and I was embarrassed," she added.
The senior vice president for security at Navy Federal, Tom Lyons, defended the institution's policy, first implemented in December 2008, on the grounds that it prevents both armed robbery and identity theft. "We want to be able to clearly identify who you are and make sure the transaction is safe," Lyons said. "This is a policy that applies to everybody in the branch. She wasn't singled out. . . . We tried to accommodate her and help her with her transaction and move on." Noting a significant increase in robberies last year, Lyons observed that this policy is taking place "all over the country." (March 10, 2009) Mar. 17, 2009 update: The Washington Post reveals that an internal Navy Federal Credit Union memo instructs employees to stop enforcing the "no hats, hoods or sunglasses" policy while officials decide how it can be applied fairly. At the same time, the memo indicates, signs prohibiting such items should remain up. Tom Lyons told the Post that the memo does not mean the policy will be abandoned.
Our Lady and St John Catholic Art College, UK, bans the niqab: An unnamed 32-year-old Muslim mother had to leave a parents' evening at Our Lady and St John Catholic Art College in Blackburn because she insisted on wearing a niqab. Security reasons were cited: school policy since 2007 requires visitors 'faces to be visible at all times. When she refused to leave the premises, the police were called; she eventually walked away in tears. "'I don't like going to the school any more because I leave crying. I can understand that people should be identified but I am just a normal person, trying to lead a normal life. Why should how I dress make a difference?" Headteacher Colette Gillen offered one-to-one meeting in her office for the niqabed mother to discuss her son's progress but refused to relax the policy. (April 4, 2009)
Muslim jewelery store bans niqabs: Of course, the story is more piquant when it's Muslims banning Islamist headgear, as has happened at ATAA Jewellers in Glasgow, Scotland. As reported elsewhere on this weblog, the store was robbed in early April 2009; after that incident, the Sadiq family who own the store decided not to allow in anyone wearing a niqab. They plan to post a sign banning any face covering and expect this idea to spread. If such a move offends some people, they insist that their own safety must take priority.
Hanzala Malik, the councillor in Glasgow in whose district ATAA Jewellers is located, backs the Sadiqs' decision: "Business people have to make a decision; do they want their customers in or not with that type of dress? I know in Scotland that banks will not allow their customers coming in with motorbike helmets, I don't see why it should be different for people wearing the niqab. It is an issue about identifying people." (April 27, 2009)
Citizen's Bank asks that head programs be removed: I took this picture at a Citizen's Bank branch in Cambridge, Mass., with the instruction "Please remove Hats, Sunglasses and Hoods." (Aug. 23, 2009)
PNC Bank "requests" removal of head coverings: I took this picture today at a PNC Bank branch office in Philadelphia. A sign on the door to the bank announces that "The safety of our employees and customers is our foremost concern. We request that you remove any hats, caps, sunglasses or hoods while inside this financial institution." Left unstated – and I did not investigate – is what happens if a customer chooses not to remove said hat, cap, sunglasses, or hoods. (January 4, 2010)
A "security program" at M&I Bank: I took this picture today at an M&I Bank office in St. Louis: "This facility participates in the 'No Hats, No Hoods, No Sunglasses, No Guns' security program. Please remove these items before entering." (December 5, 2010)
CAIR wants Valley National Bank in Tulsa to permit face coverings: The Council on American-Islamic Relations demands that this Oklahoma bank drop its requirement that customers not wear hats, hoods and sunglasses to its four branches, arguing that this discriminates against Muslims. It does so following a hijab'ed woman being told that she'd have to leave the bank unless she removed the head covering. It does not appear that the bank will bend, but let's see. (November 8, 2012) Jan. 25, 2013 update: As reported in "Muslim group, ACLU praise bank association's headscarf clarification," it appears that CAIR did win this one.
Whitney Bank disallows head gear: "Please remove hats, hoods, & sunglasses" reads a sign on the front door of a Whitney Bank facility in New Orleans, La. (January 27, 2013)
Ranya Al-Huthaili, 23, of Roseville, Minnesota, charged with robbing five banks over four weeks.
Ranya Al-Huthaili, 23, of Roseville, Minnesota, charged with robbing five banks over four weeks.
Sep. 27, 2013 update: Huthaili has admitted to four of the robberies and has been; she has Saudi and American passports; and she is being held in custody out of concern that she will flee to Saudi Arabia.
Sep. 30, 2013 update: London's Daily Mail has posted several pictures of Huthaili in action. Here is one of them:
ADC wants Century Savings Bank to drop jilbabi picture: Century Savings Bank, a New Jersey institution with about $380 million in assets and six branch offices, posts the usual prohibition on head coverings: "For security reasons, Please remove Hats, Hoods, Headgear and Sunglasses." Unusually, it shows four individuals, including one woman in a red jilbab.
The American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee's Nicole Saleem wrote a letter to the bank president demanding that
Comment: Curious timing, this, coming just two weeks after Huthaili's arrest for five robberies (on which, see directly above), some of them outfitted in a hijab. (September 27, 2013) Oct. 3, 2013 update: CAIR too has jumped on this issue, using ADC's picture and repeating its argument but giving ADC no credit for raising the topic while, characteristically, taking a more aggressive stance, calling on Century Savings Bank
Bizarrely, Ali goes on to claim that the Bank's policy would also affect Jewish men wearing yarmulkes and Jewish women wearing wigs. Oct. 4, 2013 update: In a "Good News Alert," CAIR announces that Century Savings Bank folded on the poster. CAIR's e-mail makes no mention of ADC but its posted press release does contain a note acknowledging that ADC "was also involved in the resolution of this issue." That must thrill the ADC types. Oct. 7, 2013 update: ADC bit its tongue in its own "Good News!" alert today, reporting the bank's change in policy and adding that "many of our partners, such as CAIR-NJ, worked on the issue as well."
Bank in Zacatecas, Mexico: A local bank branch in central Mexico has a stricter policy, banning caps, dark glasses, and even mobile phones. (June 23, 2014)
Woman expelled from a financial office goes to court: Raghdaa Ali was denied services at Advance America in Inkster, Michigan, because she insisted on wearing a hijab, against company policy. As AA explained: "For the safety of our customers and employees, Advance America requires the temporary removal of hoods, hats, sunglasses and other head coverings in order to be admitted into one of our centers." The American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee of Michigan and the Council on American Islamic Relations of Michigan have announced a federal lawsuit against AA. (November 13, 2014)
Reader comments (17) on this item
Comment on this item
Support Daniel Pipes' work with a tax-deductible donation to the Middle East Forum. Daniel J. Pipes