Australian Muslim teenager claims she was held against her will by service station worker in perceived racist attack

Teenager Hafsah Negussie claims she was held against her will at a Brisbane service station after a worker confused company policy and refused to serve her.

Ms Negussie, a Muslim who wears a veil while in public, said she tried to pay for her goods and go, but claimed the attendant locked the doors when she attempted to leave.

The incident, which occurred at a BP service station on Brisbane’s southside in December last year, was reported to police but no official report was filed until Ms Negussie came forward again in April.

“I’m Australian, I was born and raised here, I know my rights. It’s so horrific,” Ms Negussie said.

A company spokesman for BP service stations said the business required customers to remove helmets, hoodies or large hats before approaching the counter.

He said the policy did not extend to religious head wear and admitted the attendant involved had misunderstood business requirements.

“This was regrettable and we wish to apologise most sincerely for this lapse,” he said. “We are also reminding all our service station staff of our company’s approach to religious headgear.”

The spokesman rejected Ms Negussie’s claim that she was locked in the service station. “The customer could have left the store at any time of her choosing and there is no evidence to support the suggestion that the she was restrained or held in the store against her will,” he said.

Ms Negussie said the apology, issued last week after enquiries by the Southern Star, was not good enough. She has now taken the case to the Queensland Anti Discrimination Commission with help from her friend and human rights lawyer Sabrina Khan Ismail.

“(We believe) she was deprived of her liberty and is quite traumatised by this incident and BP’s denial of the incident is not helping the matter,” Ms Ismail said.

Southern Star, 29 April 2013

See also Today Tonight, 30 April 2013