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Family sues holiday camp over bumper car hijab ban

Family sues holiday camp over bumper car hijab ban
Holiday camp Butlins is facing a legal action for barring a Muslim teenager from driving one of the fairground’s dodgem bumper cars, because she was wearing a hijab. Her father is suing over alleged discrimination on the grounds of race and religion.

Moammer Nasser, 41, a family support worker from Birmingham, said he was at the holiday resort in Minehead in June with his wife and four children, and had been waiting to use the bumper cars with his 16-year-old daughter when an attendant, citing health and safety concerns, said the girl couldn’t go on the ride because she was wearing a hijab.

Nasser asked to see a policy banning hijabs at Butlins. “I was shown a safety code which stated that some disabled guests or those with physical injuries may not be able to use rides safely. But wearing a hijab is not a disability or a physical injury,” Nasser told the Guardian.

“We were humiliated in front of other fairground users. My daughter was crying at the gate of the ride, making her feel very stressed and upset.” He added that people were looking at them as if they were criminals.

“[We were] stopped and questioned by the ride attendant, followed by a supervisor and the fairground manager coming out to speak to us whilst people stared and looked at my family, probably assuming that we had done something wrong.”

Nasser said he and his family were so distressed by the incident that they finished their holiday a day early. He lodged a formal complaint with Butlins. Jan Axten, of Bourne Leisure Ltd, replied that it was company policy that no one could go on the ride wearing a headscarf or loose garment that could not be removed.

This, Axtern said, was due to a “previous very serious incident” in 2016 when a scarf around a visitor’s neck had come loose, got caught in the chassis and caused a serious neck and throat injury. She said Butlins was disappointed that Nasser felt his daughter had been deliberately treated unfavorably because of her hijab, and offered “sincere apologies.”

But Nasser said others were wearing various forms of scarves and headgear and had not been banned from using the dodgems. “During our stay at the resort there was another lady who was wearing a scarf around her neck and was allowed on the rides; many people were wearing hoods and the tie strings were hanging … yet they were still allowed on the rides,” Nasser said.

A Butlin’s spokesperson said its team is trained not to compromise when it comes to safety. “In this instance our team member quite rightly put the guest’s welfare first and judged that loose headwear could have caused a risk if caught in moving bumper cars.”

The spokesperson added: “There was no question of discrimination and any suggestions of this are utterly rejected in the strongest terms. We are sorry if the family feel they were badly treated. We explained our policies to them at the time, in writing afterwards and also to the Equality Advice and Support Service, who have told us they are satisfied with the explanation given to them.”

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