Fifteen people were arrested after a brawl at a New York amusement park that started when a group of Muslim women wearing traditional headscarves were told they wouldn’t be allowed on certain rides.
Some 3,000 members of the Muslim Society of New York went to the Rye Playland on Tuesday to celebrate the end of Ramadan, and the park says it told the trip’s organizers beforehand that women who wore hijabs or other head coverings wouldn’t be allowed on a number of rides because the scarves posed a safety risk.
Still, some women wearing those scarves must not have been told about the risk, because some of them tried to get on the rides anyway. When they were stopped and told they would need to remove a garment they wear out of religious conviction to ride rides they’d already paid for, a group of them decided to talk with management.
Ola Salem, a 17-year-old girl who was at the park, told The Westchester Journal News that the manager they spoke with were so disrespectful that she and a group of women decided to leave. As they walked out, so did a number of other Muslims. “By the time we got to the entrance, it was about 150 Muslims. We were at the entrance, and all of a sudden the rangers with the blue shirts, one pushed a lady. And she pushed him back. And all of a sudden a guy just jumps in, I guess he was related to her, and then the rangers just go out of control. They take out their batons and they start hitting people.”
A cell-phone video taken at the park shows a group of law enforcement officers huddled over what the man who shot it says was the first woman to be attacked. Other people at the park complained that the officers beat them unnecessarily.
Westchester Deputy Parks Commissioner Peter Tartaglia told The New York Post that the rule would apply to anything that covers the head. “Depending on the ride, it can become a projectile that hurts someone else, or it could strangle you if it got caught on something,” he says. But Salem says she’s never seen that rule enforced — she went to the same park earlier this year with a considerably smaller group of friends and says she had no trouble getting on rides wearing her headscarf. In fact, she says she’s never been prevented from riding rides at other parks because of her scarf.
Rules aren’t worth much when they’re only applied selectively, so why would Rye Playland choose this week to enforce the head covering guideline? If they were really as concerned for their patrons’ safety as they say they are, the park’s operators would have applied that rule every single day. But on this day, the park saw the incoming of Muslim women wearing scarves as a concern to be dealt with instead of what it really was: people celebrating a holiday.
Take a look at the video from the Post below, and weigh in.