A woman who was asked to remove a religious head covering before she could enter an Omaha bank called police and said she felt she was being discriminated against.
Officers were called to the Security National Bank near 78th and Cass Streets on Tuesday to respond to a disturbance that reportedly began when the woman was asked to remove her hijab, a scarf that some Muslim women wear that covers the head, and sometimes the neck and chest.
A woman posted on Facebook that her Muslim friend had gone to the bank to open an account but “was not allowed to enter unless she removed her scarf.” After the woman called the police, the post said, officers told her the bank has the right to make the request for security purposes.
The woman who had gone to the bank commented on her friend’s post, saying, “I felt as if they took me as a joke, even after explaining to them the reason I was there and the reason I wear the head scarf. They still asked me to remove it, I panicked and didn’t want those workers to be afraid of me.”
A spokeswoman for the Omaha Police Department said officers were called to the location at 12:25 p.m. for a disturbance, but no report was taken.
The woman said she removed the hijab but “felt naked” and began crying. She then called police because she felt she was being discriminated against.
“How is that the (Department of Motor Vehicles) does not ask me to take my scarf off?” she wrote. “And how is it that I can get a professional job with a scarf on? I did nothing wrong in my eyes.”
Amy Miller of ACLU of Nebraska responded on Facebook.
“A bank is a public accommodation, covered by federal and state laws prohibiting discrimination on the basis of race, gender, disability and religion,” Miller wrote. “Think of it like the classic problem where a restaurant is refusing service to black customers: that’s illegal and can be reported.”
In a written statement, a Security National Bank spokeswoman said the request of the woman “was in no way intended to be discriminatory. If it caused offense in any way, we are truly sorry.”
The spokeswoman, Lindsey Miltner, said the bank has a policy of asking all walk-in customers “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. We routinely ask individuals to remove their hats, scarves and sunglasses prior to entering. This is done in an effort to keep our customers and employees safe.”
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