An amusement park in suburban New York City was forced to close down Tuesday afternoon after a huge brawl broke out when Muslim women were denied entry to rides because of their head scarves.
Some 3,000 Muslims were at Rye Playland in Westchester County celebrating the end of Ramadan when several women were told they could not go on a few rides unless they took off their scarves.
The New York Daily News reports the rule applies to all hats, not just head scarves, to keep them from flying off and getting on the tracks. Peter Tartaglia, deputy commissioner of Westchester County Parks, said the rule is also in place to keep scarves from getting tangled with mechanical parts, which could choke riders. He said the Muslim American Society had been advised of the rules before the tour, according to the Daily Mail.
"Part of our rules and regulations, which we painstakingly told them over and over again, is that certain rides you cannot wear any sort of headgear," Tartaglia said. "It's a safety issue for us on rides, it could become a projectile."
But one woman argued about not being allowed on a ride.
"The cops started getting loud with her and she started getting loud, too. They pushed her on the ground and arrested her," one witness said.
When others tried to help her, they scuffled with police, and the brawl expanded from there.
A total of 15 people were arrested. Two park rangers were injured.
Many of the witnesses claim police were "beating" the Muslims, however John Hodges, chief inspector of Westchester County Public Safety, insisted that police did not use excessive force.
There are accusations from many who were there that this only happened because they are Muslim.
"She just wanted to get on a ride. That was it," Dena Meawad said. "It's clear, this all happened because we're Muslim."
"In this heightened state of Islamaphobia, a woman wearing a hajib is an easy target these days," said Zead Ramadan, president of the New York chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations. "Unfortunately, this turned ugly due to a lot of miscommunication."
Here is a report from Fox 5 in New York City: