August 31st marked the end of the Islamic holy month of Ramadan. For those who know the ordeal and discipline one must go through with Ramadan, it is clear to say that Eid al-Fitr is a joyous occasion worth celebrating. In New York, the Muslim American Society of New York organized an event at the Rye Playland, a Westchester County park, which attracted 3,000 Muslims from Brooklyn, Queens, the Bronx and Westchester County.
What was to be a fun and relaxing time at the park ended up being a scuffle and then a minor riot. The park was shut down after cops scuffled with Muslims who were upset that women wearing hijabs were barred from the rides, according to witnesses. Now for those of you who don’t know what hijabs are, they are head scarves that cannot be taken off as easily as one would do with a hat. It is there for religious reasons, equivalent to that of Sikh men wearing turbans. So was the police intervention justified?
Let’s break it down a bit: the ban, which is not Muslim specific, was imposed about three years ago mostly to prevent hats from falling onto the tracks of roller coasters and other rides, park officials said. Now in practicality, it would make sense because hats, scarves, or any loose accessories can become hazardous objects especially when you’re riding roller coasters or any fast moving rides. I will have to view this objectively and say that I agree with the park officials who asked the women if they can remove their hijabs. Peter Tartaglia, deputy commissioner of Westchester County Parks, said the Muslim American Society of New York was warned in advance of the rule barring head scarves on rides for safety reasons.
Even if they were warned and the folks still came with hijabs, it would at least merit a strict policy that they won’t be able to get on the rides. But once police intervention comes in and starts turning the matter into police hitting and putting people in handcuffs for arguing with them, I feel like that is when the line is drawn. Is this another case of unnecessary police force? What do you guys think?
[Photo Courtesy of NY Times]