A Staten Islander was among those arrested in a brawl Tuesday at Rye Playland in Westchester County, after safety rules barred women from wearing Muslim head scarves on some rides, Staten Island Advance reported.
Kareem Meawad, 17, was among many who were charged with disorderly conduct, as well as resisting arrest and obstructing government administration.
On a few active, roller-coaster-type rides, the park does not allow customers to wear headgear of any kind – baseball caps, scarves, yarmulkes, nuns’ habits, Native American war bonnets, anything.
A hat can fly off and land on the tracks, the New York Daily News noted. A scarf can get loose, catch on something, and potentially strangle a rider, parks Deputy Commissioner Peter Tartaglia told The Journal News in Westchester.
He said this had been made clear in advance to the person who organized a large group of visitors from the Muslim American Society of New York. They had come to celebrate the holiday of Eid-ul-Fitr.
Nonetheless, when park officials tried to enforce the ban, it led to what Zead Ramadan, president of the Council on American-Islamic Relations in New York, called “a lot of miscommunication.” Even as the park tried to offer visitors a refund, a brawl erupted.
In one version of what went wrong, a park cashier told the Journal News that a woman wearing a hijab either pushed or hit a ride operator. A police officer tried to restrain her, the woman’s husband got involved and things escalated.
By the end, the afternoon produced two arrests for felony assault, several busts for disorderly conduct, and accusations that police over-reacted and pushed some of the women to the ground.
The Advance reported that some residents of Staten Island nonetheless called the incident an example of bias against Muslims. The newspaper quoted Hesham El-Meligy, a community leader in New Springville, saying enforcement of the headgear rule against the Muslim women was “apparent racism” by amusement park officials.
The ban on all headgear is among the new safety rules that went into effect after Playland rides killed two children and a park worker between 2004 and 2007. This occurred in a series of incidents not related to any clothing the victims were wearing, the Journal News said.