Muslim women told to get off London bus because they were a ‘threat’ to passengers

Two Muslim women have claimed they were refused a bus ride because one had her face covered by a veil.

The 22-year-old students, of Slough, Berkshire, were in London and boarded a Metroline bus from Russell Square to Paddington on Tuesday. But they said when they presented their tickets the driver told them they were a “threat” to passengers and ordered them off the bus. An investigation has been started by the firm as a matter of “urgency”.

The pair, who have made a formal complaint to the bus company, have asked the BBC not to reveal their full names.

Yasmin, who was wearing a hijab, and Atoofa, dressed in a niqab – which covers the face – were in London to hand in university work and would usually have taken the Tube, but because Yasmin’s feet were hurting they opted to travel by bus.

Yasmin said at first she boarded the bus by mistake when it was not in service to ask if it was going to Paddington station, but was told by the driver to get off.

“My gut reaction was just to laugh because I thought it was hilarious to be told to get off the bus,” she said. “About 10 minutes later… the passengers started getting on. When I went forward to show my ticket he said, ‘Get off the bus’. I presumed he was still angry because I got on the bus before.

“He said, ‘I am not going to take you on the bus because you two are a threat.’ I realised it wasn’t due to me getting on the bus, this may be a racist attack.” The student said the driver told her and her friend that they were a “threat” to both him and his passengers.

She asked for his contact details but when he refused she began to film him with her mobile phone and he covered his face with a magazine. “I said, ‘it’s OK for you to cover your face on my recording but it’s not OK for my friend to cover her face out of choice?’ There was no point arguing with him, we got off the bus and by then my anger turned into emotion. I stood there and my gut reaction was to cry.”

Atoofa, who had her face covered by the veil, said she hoped the driver would be educated about why women wear the traditional Islamic dress, rather than being sacked. “I think more than anything, I would like him to understand why we wear it and I think I would like an apology,” she added. “I think being sacked is a whole other league. I want him to sit there and talk to me about why he felt the way he felt and maybe to understand where we are coming from.”

BBC News, 23 July 2010