Saturday, September 03, 2011

Hijabis in Playland

There was a riot of Muslims at the Playland amusement park in Westchester County, New York this past Tuesday:
A number of them flew into a violent rage when told that, due to safety rules, women had to remove their flowing head scarves or hijabs before going on certain rides -- including the Catch-a-Wave ride, the Crazy Mouse roller coaster and the Dragon Coaster, according to news reports describing a violent melee involving Muslims fighting police, security personnel, and each other. It prompted a large police response -- at least 60 police cruisers from nine agencies, along with a police helicopter circling overhead, according to The Journal News, a local Gannett newspaper offering the best coverage of the melee.

Some 15 people were arrested following the melee, reportedly involving 30 to 40 people. The trip was arranged by the Muslim American Society of New York, which had expected to bring some 3,000 people to Playland, the paper noted.

How come the Muslim American Society apparently failed to let everybody on its outing know about the "no hijab" policy in advance? That's a question some park officials were asking, including Deputy Parks Commissioner Peter Tartaglia. He told The Journal News that park officials had "painstakingly" told the organizer about the headgear ban. But apparently, he said, those rules weren't passed along to many attendees.

Then again, maybe Muslim leaders deliberately failed to pass along the "no hijab" policy because they felt they were being bullied; or perhaps they were content to let a confrontation occur. (“Riot at amusement park over 'no hijab' rule”).

The heroine of this jihad is Ola Salem, 17, of Coney Island. Watch the 
video interview with Ms. Salem, and you can appreciate my skepticism, as she describes with what celerity she organized an impromptu flying wedge of angry hijabis at the entrance to the park.
As she tells it, after being told by the ride operator about the rule on long scarves, Ms. Salem, instead of merely complying or moving on, told the operator’s supervisor that removing her hijab would be “as if I take off my shirt.”

Well, no one was asking her to take off her shirt. The supervisor repeated that if she wanted to get on the ride, she could remove her scarf. As Ms. Salem recounts, 

“It was offensive but I let that go. (!) So I decided to gather a couple women that also wear the scarf. I gathered about 50 when I started.”

To Ms. Salem, “letting it go” means gathering the largest demonstration she can muster, and gathering “a couple women” means 50 to start off with. She either has a phenomenal number of friends, or is a born organizer. Once Ms. Salem’s mob of fifty angry Arab women confronted the manager of the park, who was, (she says)“disrespectful also,” they tripled their number and moved it to the park entrance. (I wonder if her poor sister ever got to go on any more rides after this, She wasn’t wearing a hijab.)

Based on her own account, it was Ms. Salem who raised the stakes every step of the way. When being told of the rule, she simply expected it to be suspended for herself and her fellow hijabis regardless of the purpose behind it. When an exception wasn’t made for her
, that was “offensive,” and “disrespectful.”

Absent from all this is any idea that Ms. Salem and her fellow Muslims could have handled this otherwise than by getting it their own way. Capturing the spirit nicely, Amr Khater, who brought his family along with this group, saw the whole thing from only one side. "Everybody got mad, everybody got upset. It's our holiday. Why would you do this to us?"

Ms. Salem told the New York Times that “They said no because of my ‘headgear’. . . I said, ‘It’s not my headgear, it’s my religion.’”
Never mind that the ride operator never said no to her eight-year-old sister, whom the operator would have concluded was also a Muslim, nor any of the several hundred male Muslims who were getting on rides all over the place.

Ms. Salem may just as well have said of the riot she started: “I said it was discrimination, but it’s not discrimination, it’s my religion.”

Thus the genius of those colorful scarves. They’re not just headgear: they’re weapons.

1 comment:

Wendy Woodley said...

That's crazy and makes no sense. It would have been a terrible thing if the management had given in to them and the flowing hijab worn by one of those women had gotten caught in the gears or wheels of a ride.