15 Arrested Over NY Amusement Park’s Headscarf Ban


Fifteen people were arrested last Thursday after fighting broke out in Playland Park in Rye in New York’s Westchester County when a group of Muslims were told that women could not wear their headscarves on some of the rides. The trip had been arranged by the Muslim American Society of New York for some 3,000 people from New York City, Yonkers and parts of Long Island, to celebrate Id al-Fitr, the end of the holy month of Ramadan. Most of the female Muslim visitors were wearing the hijab; they were told they could not get on some rides — the Catch-a-Wave ride, the Crazy Mouse roller coaster and the Dragon Coaster — because of their scarves. As the New York Daily News reports:

One woman, Entisai Ali, began arguing with cops over the amusement park’s head scarf, or hijab, rule, said Dena Meawad, 18, of Bay RidgeBrooklyn.

The ban, which is not Muslim specific, was imposed about 3 years ago mostly to prevent hats from falling onto the tracks of roller coasters and other rides, park officials said.

“The cops started getting loud with her and she started getting loud, too. They pushed her on the ground and arrested her,” Meawad said.

Her cousin, Kareem Meawad, 17, went to try to protect the woman and was beaten by cops and also arrested, she added. Her brother, Issam Meawad, 20, was pushed to the ground and taken into custody when he tried to help his cousin, she said.

“She just wanted to get on a ride. That was it,” Dena Meawad said of the initial confrontation. “It’s clear, this all happened because we’re Muslim.”

In addition, Ali’s sister, Ayman Alrabah, 24, said that her husband, brother and father were all “tackled by cops” and handcuffed when they tried to help her sister. Alrabah said that, in the midst of requesting a refund, ”all of a sudden an argument became a riot” with police appearing and hitting her relatives and handcuffing her husband in front of his 4-year-old son, who’s now ”traumatized.” Alrabah added:

“They treated us like animals, like we were nothing. They came with their dogs and sticks. We came to have fun.”

Up to 100 police officers were dispatched to the park and two park rangers were injured, leading to felony assault charges against two people. John Hodges, chief inspector of Westchester County Public Safety, says that “excessive force” was not used.

Kathleen M. O’Connor, commissioner of the Westchester County Parks Department, says that things at Playland Park, which is owned by the county, “got heated” as the group’s members “were frustrated they couldn’t get on the rides.” Park officials said that visitors were offered a refund on the $20 each had paid and several proceeded to the park’s main entrance to do so. The Parks Department then says that “about 20 members of the Muslim American group started fighting among themselves”; Peter Tartaglia, the deputy commissioner of the department, said that park rangers intervened because there was “pushing and shoving.”

County officials said that 15 people including three women were arrested; they did not say whether all were members of the tour group. All of those arrested were released and charged with disorderly conduct, says the New York Daily News. Playland Park shut down for two hours after the incident.

County officials said the tour group’s organizers had not informed visitors that they would not able to get on certain rides while wearing “headgear.” While saying that he did not know of any specific instances in which wearing headscarves had led to injuries, Tartaglia pointed out that “Something flying off your head could land on the track” and “If you have a scarf on, you could be choked.”

Sharif Aly, vice president of the Muslim American Society of New York, says that the group is investigating what happened “before drawing any conclusions.” As Zead Ramadan, president of the Council on American-Islamic RelationsNew York, comments in the New York Daily News:

“In this heightened state of Islamaphobia, a woman wearing a hajib is an easy target these days. Unfortunately, this turned ugly due to a lot of miscommunication.”

Ola Salem of Coney Island, Brooklyn, was told she could not get on a ride because of her “headgear.” According to the New York Times, she then said that “It’s not my headgear, it’s my religion.”

A little cultural sensitivity — requesting that park employees understand that headscarves aren’t simply “headgear” but worn for religious reasons — might have made a very big difference, as would county park officials doing some research about whether or not wearing headscarves actually has led to injuries. These might seem like excessive steps but they could go a long way to preventing future incidents and misunderstanding.

Related Care2 Coverage

Hijablogging: “Hijab Undecided”

Abercrombie and Fitch Fires Woman for Wearing Hijab

Soccer Referee Fired for Wearing Hijab


Photo of Playland Park in Rye, NY, by SpecialKRB


Lydia S.
Lydia S6 years ago

Deborah M wrote: "Lydia, really? Your comments just prove your own bigotry, and insensitivity. You say, 'use of force' is a proper action in this case. That would put you in the same category as terrorists."


Some more left-wing "Tolerance" LUNACY! Did you happen to see how quickly the riots spread in England, recently? Because the police were "afraid" to use force, the situation exploded & MORE violence resulted!

Touchy-Feely works ONLY if BOTH sides use that approach! When you are faced with a potentially VOLATILE situation & the persons you are confronting are NOT being cooperative -- You USE THE FORCE NECESSARY to CONTROL THE SITUATION!

Bette M.
Bette M6 years ago

John B.....Great comment!!!
And the same applies to one
other minority group.

Plant & protect Danny's trees for life.
Trees are the lungs of the earth.

john b.
m h6 years ago

oh bu-hu-hu... everyone is so mean to us poor muslims... bu-hu-hu...

how about you follow the SAME RULES AS EVERYONE ELSE, for once?!!? we're so sick and tired of this bloody whining by muslims. you go around and demand that you should get special treatment based on your superstitious beliefs. absolutely disgusting! no headgear means exactly that, FOR EVERYONE. why should someone's religious conviction override any rules?? if you dont like our way, then leave! if you want to integrate and follow the same rules as everyone else, then you're welcome to stay. do NOT think u deserve special treatment, cause u dont. bah!

surjit k.
surjit k6 years ago

You can't argue with brain dead muslims, no matter what. see www.blip.tv/file/1382254 America is doomed

Deborah M.
Deborah M6 years ago

Lydia, really? Your comments just prove your own bigotry, and insensitivity. You say, 'use of force' is a proper action in this case. That would put you in the same category as terrorists. That's how they believe change should occur. Putting an 18 year old female on the ground will incite a protective instinct among men of any culture.

Joy Jin
Joy Jin6 years ago

the police had no right to beat the men up. but i think that the hat ban is reasonable.

Lauren Phillips
Lauren Phillips6 years ago

For insurance purposes the park has to enforce these safety guidelines. If anyone wearing a hijab or head scarf had gotten choked to death there would have been a lawsuit, however I can see how all this escalated into a fight. Many Islamic's are facing a lot of hateful remarks and prejudice in America today because we are being brain washed by the media that they are all out to get us. This young woman was only 18 and I'm sure quite upset about the thought of missing out on the rides as well as following her religious beliefs. The police are not always taught cultural diversity, they also lost a lot of friends on 9/11 leaving them a little bitter towards the Islamic faith. Probably both sides over reacted. The people who are to blame for this are the Muslim American Society of New York who sponsered this event. They should have clearly posted the rules about not being able to wear hat's and scarves on these particular rides. Being of the Islamic faith they would know how upsetting this would be to the young women. They had a duty to post this on their e-mails, by omitting these facts they created a volatile situation. It's a shame we can't see past religion and ethnicity, we would be better people for it.

trina firey
Trina D. firey6 years ago

I agree that dress codes must be visable. Prevention is Key!
Using Force is always bad business

Heather G.
Heather G6 years ago

the "islamist agenda," is that anything like the "gay agenda" the bigoted gay hating crowd keeps insisting is getting shoved in their faces? yes, muslims ARE a protected group, just like ALL religions. Isn't freedom of religion still one of the core ideas of the USA?

And Lydia, if you're so "afraid" of what you read on CAIR2 (as you put it) why in the name of (deity of choice/freedom of religion at work) do you even come here???

Zoe B.
Zoe B6 years ago

Will, i'm not an American, but I can tell you, when I holiday in a country where the custom is to cover up, i cover up. If I'm somewhere where it is not allowed to wear shoes in a building, I take mine off, If it is required that I wear protective equipment somewhere, I will wear it.
i will never jump up and down and scream about my RIGHT to wear shoes in that building, or my RIGHT to go on a building site without a hard had, or otherwise, out of respect.

For that reason I will never be beaten to the ground by a foreign police/army/security personnel.
The woman was told a rule, she had the choice, comply, or go on another ride. She chose to create a scene.