Muslim Woman Charges Discrimination Over Pool Rules
A Muslim woman is crying foul over a community swimming pool’s policy of requiring bathers to wear swimsuits after she wasn’t allowed to enter the pool fully clothed.
Sabah Ali told a local Denver TV station she felt discriminated against by the Commerce City Recreation Center when told that pool policy wouldn’t allow her to wear traditional Muslim clothing in the water.
“Why do I have to be half naked to swim? To enjoy my time with my kids?“ Ali sobbed during her interview with Denver’s 7 News. “I want to have the same rights as every citizen.”
But Commerce City spokeswoman Michelle Halsted told the station that the rules apply to everyone, not just Muslims. Swimmers aren’t allowed to wear jeans, athletic shorts or other everyday street clothes in the community pool for safety and health reasons.
“The city routinely turns away people who don’t have appropriate swimwear — jean shorts, sport shorts, not wearing swim diapers,” Halsted said. “We turn all those individuals away because the No. 1 focus for us is safety.”
Civil rights attorney Quasair Mohamedbhai told the station that the rec center is discriminating based on religious beliefs, since Ali’s religion requires her to cover most of her body, even when swimming recreationally.
“These policies should be reevaluated to ensure that Muslims are included and have full access to the Commerce City Rec Center,” Mohamedbhai said.
Halstead said the city would contact other public pools to learn about how they deal with such situations, but added that it would add “burkinis” to the list of acceptable swimwear in order to accommodate Muslim women.
A burkini is a full-body long-sleeved outfit, including a head cover, that Muslim women can wear while swimming.
Ali told the station that in order to swim with her children and accommodate her religious beliefs, she rented a hotel room just to use the hotel’s pool.
“I didn’t want the same thing to happen to somebody else when they come in,” she said of her decision to go public with her spat with the rec center.
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