The Muslim head of a children’s summer program in Delaware was allegedly kicked out of public swimming pool because some of the kids were wearing cotton shirts and traditional headscarves.
Tahsiyn A. Ismaa’eel told The Delaware News Journal that she has been taking participants in her summer Arabic enrichment program to the Foster Brown public pool in Wilmington for years.
But Ismaa’eel says that 2018 is different namely because this is the first year Foster Brown management has enforced supposed city regulations that prohibit pool visitors from wearing cotton inside the facility, claiming the fabric’s ability to absorb water poses a risk to swimmer safety.
Tahsiyn A. Ismaa’eel (pictured) told USA Today that she has been taking participants in her summer Arabic enrichment program to the Foster Brown public pool for years
‘If it’s a rule… it’s never been enforced,’ Ismaa’eel told the News Journal, adding ‘there’s nothing posted that says you can’t swim in cotton.’
Owner and principal of the Darul-Amaanah Academy for over the past five years, Ismaa’eel believes she and her children have been the victims of bigotry and discrimination.
‘At the same time, there are other kids with cotton on. … I asked, ‘Why are my kids being treated differently?”’
Ismaa’eel, who adorns a burqa or niqab (a religious garment that covers both the head and face), said that she was finally forced to leave after the manager called a police officer stationed just outside the pool area.
‘She said there are people waiting to get in and waiting for you to leave,’ Ismaa’eel said of the officer.
The program director said this year was different because it’s the first time pool management enforced a rule on the ban of cotton
There is currently no mention of cotton anywhere in the state or local regulations regarding swimwear except a ban on ‘cut-off jeans’ (Pictured: Darul-Amaanah Academy)
‘We were approached first about the cotton, and then it became, ‘Oh, the pool is overcapacity so you need to leave.’ … I felt very unwanted,’ she added.
A statement from the office of Wilmington Mayor Mike Purzycki said that the ban on cotton clothing stemmed from safety concerns.
According to leaders in the Wilmington’s Muslim community, acts of discrimination are nothing new (Pictured: Naveed Baqir)
‘There are city rules and regulations designed to ensure the safety of those who use the pools,’ the statement said. ‘One of the rules requires that all swimmers wear proper swimming attire.’
‘Among the safety considerations is the fact that cotton becomes heavy when wet and weighs swimmers down. Cotton also strains the pool filtration system more than proper swimwear,’ Purzycki’s office added.
The News Journal reported that there is no mention in state or local regulations regarding swimwear except a ban on ‘cut-off jeans.’
According to leaders in the Wilmington’s Muslim community, acts of discrimination are nothing new.
‘Long ago, we just gave up on the public pools,’ said Naveed Baqir, executive director of the Delaware Council on Global and Muslim Affairs.
‘For my own children, I’d rather pay the money and be treated like everyone else rather than putting myself in an anxiety situation.’
Foster Brown management later told New Journal Today that they are revising its pool signage to ‘more clearly communicate pool swimwear regulations,’ which will include fabrics like ‘Nylon, Lycra, Spandex, and Polyester.
Cotton and wool, however, will not be permitted.
The Mayor’s office noted that the ‘city will also retrain pool staff so they are prepared to explain to the public the reason for the swimwear limitations.’
A statement from the office of Wilmington Mayor Mike Purzycki (pictured) said that the ban on cotton clothing stemmed from safety concerns
‘We apologize for any miscommunication with the family, but their safety was the focus of the city’s concern.’
Since the June 25 incident, Ismaa’eel said she has been ‘harassed’ on two other occasions by a manager over her kids wearing cotton inside the pool.
On July 6, after receiving a written complaint from Ismaa’eel, Parks Director Kevin Kelley Sr. said that until new signs are placed at Foster Brown, her participants will be allowed to swim as they are.
‘I can provide some more time for the children (to) obtain the proper clothing but they need to wear something other than cotton into the pool,’ Kelley stated in an email obtained by The News Journal.