OMAHA – An Omaha bank in the US Midwestern state of Nebraska has come under fire after forcing a Muslim woman to remove her hijab when she tried to open a bank account.
“She was crying and removed it because she was afraid she had done something wrong,” the woman’s friend, Ferial Pearson, wrote on Facebook.
“She called the police and they said the bank had the right to do that for security purposes.”
The woman, who was not identified by KMTV for security concerns, went to the Security National Bank branch hoping to open an account.
Before reaching the gate, the doors were closed and a bank employee told her to remove her hijab.
She explained she wears it for religious reasons 3 times and then removed it when, she says, they still wouldn’t let her in.
The bank said they frequently ask customers to remove headwear or anything covering their face for security reasons.
In a statement, a bank representative said “our policy for all walk-in customers is to remove all face, eye and head coverings to allow our employees and security cameras to have a clear view of each person entering the bank.
“This is done in an effort to keep our employees and customers safe.”
The incident has angered local Muslims who criticized the bank as being insensitive to religious freedoms.
“They have to understand that this is not a normal head cover,” Sarah Ouedrogo, a member of the Islamic Center of Omaha, told KETV.
“It’s for a religious purpose, and if she chose that, nobody can tell her to take it off.”
Mary-Beth Muskin, the Regional Director with the Anti-Defamation League of the Plains States Regional Office, said the bank security policies should be revised.
“We have to understand what we’re looking at to make policies and procedures that are thoughtful and respectful of all community members,” Muskin explained.
The bank may have violated city law. Under the “Place of Public Accommodation” Ordinance any business offering goods or services to the public can’t discriminate against anyone because of their race, religion, sexual orientation, and other categories.
“I think that our laws are there to be guidelines as we really work at traversing this slippery slope at how we make that balance of security and respect,” Muskin described.
Islam sees hijab as an obligatory code of dress, not a religious symbol displaying one’s affiliations.
Muslims make up 1% of America’s 322 million population, according to Pew Research center.