Muslim ejected from Louisiana mall over hijab

The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) today called on local, state and national law enforcement authorities to investigate a recent incident in which a Muslim woman was allegedly ejected from a Louisiana shopping mall for refusing a security guard’s demand to remove her religiously-mandated headscarf, or hijab.

CAIR said the 54-year-old woman and her daughter-in-law were leaving the food court of the Oakwood Mall in the New Orleans suburb of Gretna, La., on February 22 when a security guard approached them and allegedly told the older woman that she had two options: remove her headscarf or leave the mall. (The woman’s daughter-in-law was not wearing a headscarf.) The guard did not offer an explanation for his demand.

During the long walk out of the mall, the guard reportedly followed the women and even called for back-up. The daughter-in-law told CAIR that the two women felt “humiliated” by the stares of other shoppers as the guard followed them out of the mall. When two more guards came to the scene, they did not offer assistance to the women, but they did confirm the reason for the first guard’s ejection order. The family, all of whom are American citizens of Palestinian heritage, has retained an attorney and is exploring their legal options.

“It is unbelievable that an American of any faith would be denied access to a public area merely because she wished to carry out the requirements of her faith,” said CAIR National Legal Counsel Nadhira Al-Khalili. “We call on local law enforcement authorities and the FBI to determine whether any civil rights or criminal laws were violated during this disturbing incident.”

CAIR press release, 29 February 2008