Bank: No hijab, no problem

A Muslim woman is asked to leave the teller line for wearing a head scarf.

Published March 10, 2009 9:00PM (EDT)

An Islamic advocacy group is decrying what can be quite literally called veiled discrimination: On Saturday, a California, Md. bank asked a Muslim woman wearing a head scarf to go to a high-security back room to be served. The woman, who covered her hair but not her face, was told that she was violating Navy Federal Credit Union's "no hats, hoods or sunglasses" rule, aimed at deterring bank robberies and identity theft. It was the second time in a month that she was asked to leave the teller line for the back room; this time, she refused, marched out and called Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR).

"There's got to be a way to work it out so that this security concern does not lead to violations of constitutional rights," Ibrahim Hooper, CAIR's spokesperson, told the Washington Post. I agree, although I do have a question about the security concern itself: Unless all customers are required to remove all identity-obscuring accessories before entering the bank -- which they aren't at the bank in question -- how would the policy stop a robber, who is already forcefully breaking the rules, from doing it regardless? That aside, obviously a Unabomber ensemble would make it difficult to sniff out an identity thief, and a brimmed baseball cap that hides someone's face from the bank's ceiling-mounted security cameras could make it harder to ID bank robbers after the fact. But does covering someone's hair really make them unrecognizable?

Apparently, it isn't that I'm just missing the criminal potential of the head scarf. It goes unmentioned in the Post's article, but just last month, a Navy Federal Credit Union in Virginia agreed to clarify to its employees that the "no hats, hoods and sunglasses" rule does not apply to hijabs -- but only after a Muslim woman was denied service. Here's hoping the same happens in this case and, frankly, at all banks.

By Tracy Clark-Flory

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