Police and members of the Islamic faith tussled at Rye Playland, an amusement park just outside of New York City in Westchester County, after two Muslim women were not allowed to ride on rides because they were wearing head scarves—hijabs. The confrontation escalated to the point that the park had to be shut down for a number of hours to quell the feud. The confrontation ended with several arrests. Many of the Islamic patrons were issued refunds due to the altercation and closure of the park. One of the Islamic patrons, Dena Meawad, claimed that “It’s clear, this [altercation] all happened because we’re Muslims” (Hutchinson and Lestch). The reasoning offered by the patron is incorrect. However, her statement does highlight hypersensitivity within the American Muslim populace toward any acts or policies that might seem Islamaphobic.
The Muslims in attendance at Rye Playland were celebrating Eid-ul-Fitr—“a holiday marking the end of the Islamic holy month of Ramadan” (Hutchinson and Lestch). According to the article, “the event was organized by the Muslim American Society of New York, and attracted 3,000 Muslims…”(Hutchinson and Lestch). Peter Tartaglia, deputy commissioner of Westchester County Parks, stated that prior to the event commencing, the organization was informed on numerous occasions of the No Head Gear on Rides rule (Hutchinson and Lestch).
If the organizers of this event were informed of this controversial park policy, why were the attendants ignorant of this policy? The Muslim American Society should have informed their attendants of this policy. Religious societies exist to protect their followers and their faith; Therefore, this organization was negligent. Park officials also share in the blame because they should have made it abundantly clear to Muslim patrons, prior to entering the park, that under no circumstances is headgear permitted on rides.
Dena Meawad is obviously a victim of an increasingly Islamaphobic environment in America post-9/11. After 9/11 numerous bigoted acts were directed at Muslims. A number of these acts continue to occur today. However, the confrontation at Rye Playland was not remotely connected to Islamaphobia. The confrontation occurred because the women were in violation of the park’s No Head Gear on Rides rule, not because they are Muslim. Muslims involved in the fight believed the actions taken by park rangers to be an affront to Islam, so they reacted negatively to what they considered a provocative act. However, park rangers are responsible for the safety of riders and enforcing park policy. They are not at fault.
The real culprit is miscommunication. According to Zean Ramadan, president of the council on American Islamic Relations, “this turned ugly due to a lot of miscommunication” (Hutchinson and Lestch). The park’s No Head Gear on Rides policy is not Islamaphobic because “the ban…is not Muslim specific” (Hutchinson and Lestch). The ban has been enacted for safety reasons. The situation that occurred at Rye Playland was rooted in miscommunication, not Islamaphobia.
Lestch, Connie, and Bill Hutchinson. “Muslims, police scuffle at Rye Playland over amusement park’s head scarf ban; 15 arrests made.” New York Daily News. Yahoo News, 31 Aug. 2011.Web. 9 Sept. 2011.