Århus: Muslim woman refused travel on bus due to veil

Bus company Arriva said that it was a case of confusion and not racism that led a bus driver to refuse travel to a woman wearing a headscarf.

A Muslim family was shocked when a local bus driver refused to continue driving unless the mother, who was wearing a traditional headscarf, got off the bus.

Århus Stiftstidende newspaper reported that Houria Nouioua, together with her husband and three young children, was told by the young male bus driver that she couldn’t travel on the bus because she was wearing a niqab – a traditional Muslim veil that covers the face.

“The driver said that the rules in Denmark meant he couldn’t carry passengers that were masked,” said the woman’s husband, Mohamed Belgacem. “I was so shocked that she couldn’t travel on the bus. I’ve lived in Denmark for 12 years and have never experienced anything like this.”

The Arriva bus remained at the bus stop for 15 minutes while other passengers became involved in the incident, outraged at the behaviour of the bus driver. “It’s pure racism and discrimination,” said a female passenger who rang the Arriva head office and spoke to an official who instructed the driver to accept the Muslim passenger.

Martin Wex, press manager with Arriva said the driver will not be fired as it was not a case of racism but one of confusion. “The driver said he had heard that masks were forbidden during demonstrations in Denmark and thought that it also applied to buses,” said Wex, who confirmed that in the next issue of the employee magazine rules will be made clear to all personnel.

Copenhagen Post, 31 March 2009