Monday, September 5, 2011

Hijabs vs. Safety

Rye Playland is typically an amusement park full of fun and excitement, but when a group of Muslim visitors were not allowed on some rides due to their religious head garb (hijabs), the day turned violent and angry with 15 arrests and 2 felony assault charges.

A group of Muslim visitors came to the park as a celebration marking the end of Eid al-Fitr. However, their celebration was cut short when some employees would not allow some women to ride some of the attractions unless they agreed to take off their head dress. When the women became upset at this rule, the men that accompanied them quickly started a brawl with the employees, claiming religious discrimination.

However, if the visitors had looked at the amusement parks rules, they would have seen that no one, regardless of religious affiliation, could wear any sort of hat or headpiece while on the rides. This rule is in place for specific safety reasons. An important aspect of this argument is that the women were never asked to take off their hijabs while walking through the park, and it was only when their head dresses could potentially be a risk to other visitors that they were asked not to wear them. Also, it should be known that there was a sign not only at the entrance of the park itself, but also online and next to every ride. The rule as posted online states, "Hats must be secured, and jackets/sweaters must be worn properly and not around the waist while on a ride. Some rides do not allow backpacks, purses or head gear of any kind."

I believe that the minute that something becomes potentially dangerous to others, it is the amusement park’s responsibility to take away as many of these potential risks as possible. Asking these women to take off their head dresses before getting on some rides has absolutely nothing to do with religious discrimination, as similar requests would have been made of anyone wearing such a head piece, no matter their religious affiliation.

The Muslim group claimed that they were not told about this rule, however, the park insists that it was made explicitly clear to the groups organizer. Westchester County Parks Deputy Commissioner Peter Tartaglia claims that the park even set up a refund booth for anyone who might object to the policy on head gear. Instead of lashing out at the park employees simply trying to do their jobs, they should have tried talking to a supervisor in a more acceptable way. Violence is certainly not the answer.

I believe that the group of Muslim visitors should have taken a step back, so that they could understand the safety concerns of their head dress, instead of taking such a personal approach. Rye Playland was not discriminating against any religion, but rather they were trying to keep themselves from having any unnecessary liabilities. It is also my belief that the group of visitors were given ample opportunity to assess whether they wanted to stay at the park. If they feel like they were not given enough information beforehand, then perhaps they should look internally at their groups organizer, instead of lashing out against the amusement park itself.

In this situation, there was a clear disconnect between the park and this group of visitors. Perhaps the park employees should have made sure that the head gear rule was relayed to the group as they entered the park, instead of relying on the groups organizer. However, it is my belief that there was absolutely no reason for this group to act out in such a way. They should have assessed the situation and realized that no one was trying to inhibit their religious freedom, but rather, they were protecting the safety of all visitors, including themselves.


10 comments:

Harry R. said...

I agree with Grace that the request of the park officials in no way violated the religious freedoms of the Muslim women. Safety is of the utmost concern at all times and especially on potentially dangerous amusement park rides. Regardless of whether or not the group had been told about the rules before coming to the park, they must obey these rules for the safety of all visitors. The park officials appear to have made every effort to appease the group, such as setting up a refund booth, and they in no way violated the religious freedoms of their guests.

Grant Z said...

I totally agree with Grace and Harry that the safety of guests should come before concerns over religious garb. Crazy things can happen on rides, and for the park to not follow its own ride safety policy is a lawsuit waiting to happen. My only question is whether or not there is some way that the religious headwear could be secured safely; after all, if it's secure (and depending on the size of the headwear) it might be no different than a guest with long hair. Perhaps that is the sort of solution the amusement park should seek in the future.

Christy said...

I agree with the above statements and think that the actions of the amusement park were legitimate and for safety reasons only. Since the height requirements and proper attire are listed at each ride, it is a consistent rule for all people who enter the park. The park does not inform those with hats entering the park that they will have to remove it on certain rides, so I do not think that is a strong argument. The violence that broke out between the parties, however, seems completely unnecessary and the only possible instance of religious discrimination in this example.

Sophie Kleinert said...

I agree with the thoughts above because Rye Playland’s policies were explicitly stated to all guests and exist to ensure the safety of all of those in attendance. Additionally, not only were these policies made clear on the outside of every ride and on the website, but the garment policy is an undeviating rule for all of those who enter the park. Therefore, asking these women to take of their headdress would have nothing to do with religious discrimination. I also think it is important to note, that Rye Playland made efforts to accommodate those who may feel offended or have problems with their policies by establishing a refund booth.

Annie M said...

Having grown up going to Rye Play Land and subsequently not being allowed by my parents to go because of all the accidents and deaths, it seems ridiculous that there would be a violent brawl over the safety concern of these Muslims head garbs. I think the group of Muslims lashed out because they assumed that it was personal but if they had just realized the concern of the employees they would see they weren’t fighting for religious discrimination but over their personal safety. Conflicts of religious discrimination are becoming too common and applied to every possible incident involving a religious difference.

Marissa V said...

I also agree with Grace as Playland created rules to ensure riders' safety, not to discriminate. I have grown up nearby Playland and I have heard countless stories of safety concerns. A few years ago there were two tragedies one in which a young boy drowned on the log flume and another where a young girl died on the mind scrambler when she opened her safety bar. The death of these two young children greatly affected the surrounding community. The increase safety concerns have nothing to do with discrimination, it is clearly trying to prevent any further tragedies.

Jon W. said...

I agree with the sentiments that the Muslim group was out of line when they became argumentative with park staff. The safety regulations regarding what can and cannot be worn on rides is set in place strictly for the wellbeing of the patrons. In my opinion when a persons attire religious or not interferes with another persons safety, safety should always come first.

ChristopherJ. said...

Without a doubt, Rye Parkland acted appropriately in this situation. Safety policies should always trump any civil liberties, including those dealing with personal and religious expression. After all, what good are a person’s liberties if there are not alive to utilize them? Considering the number of deaths that have occurred at this particular park over the years, safety should be a top priority. If a few people get their feelings hurt because their religious garb is considered a possible safety issue, so be it. A few hurt feelings is a small price to pay to make sure everyone stays safe.

Zermeno A. said...

I also agree with what has been stated throughout. There is absolutely no way that the Muslim woman can be claiming that her rights were violated when the main concern of the theme park owner and hence the employees is that of safety. As a business, they want to avoid the illegality and immorality of an injury. By having a refund booth, they are giving customers the option to leave as they which if they are in opposition to regulation, in this case, that of safety.

Andrew Lichtenauer said...

I agree with Annie on this one - having grown up going to Rye Playland myself, it was very interesting to see the amusement park in the news. In my opinion, this issue was blown out of proportion - even though the Muslim women's headdresses are of great significance to their religion, it does not mean that they had the authority to impose their religious beliefs and practices on the people visiting a public place such as Rye Playland. The common phrase "safety first" comes to mind when reading about this incident - in certain situations, a person's safety and well-being is more important than their religious beliefs, no matter how devoutly religious they are.