Witnesses say Public Library Officer tells Muslim woman to remove head covering or leave
WASHINGTON (ABC7) —
"I was shaking. I was frustrated. I couldn't believe what I had just seen," says Jessica Raven.
Jessica Raven says she was inside the Shaw Library in NW DC Wednesday afternoon standing near a woman when she says a DC Public Library police officer threatened to handcuff the woman if she did not remove her hijab, a head covering worn by some Muslim women to express modesty and humility.
Raven, who works for Collective Action for Safe Spaces, says, "He came towards her and he took out her handcuffs and said if you aren't going to take it off then you are going to have to leave."
"I was enormously angry about it," says another witness Eric Robinson.
Robinson, who was sitting next to the woman wearing the hijab, says the officer told her initially to take her "hoodie" off. He says at first she turned her head, grimaced in humiliation and declined to remove the hijab. But when it escalated she quickly left.
"Her response was why I was upset because she just got up and walked away," says Robinson.
Robinson says he reported the incident to library officials. Raven took the twitter, blasting the officer's behavior.
"What are you going to arrest her for wearing a hijab, reading a book?," says Raven.
Rizwan Jaka is the board chairman at the All Dulles Area Muslim Society in Sterling, Virginia.
"They are challenging times but we feel that the true American spirit comes out from the Jewish community, the Christian community and people of all faiths in support of the Muslim community knowing that we are peaceful, law abiding citizens."
A spokesperson for the DC Public Library said in a prepared statement "We welcome all, we serve all and we deeply regret this happening and are taking it very seriously."
That spokesperson added that the officer has been removed from duty during the investigation and that they are trying to find the customer to express their regret.
A spokesperson for The Council on American Islamic Relations, the nation's largest Muslim civil rights organization, said he's pleased with the library's response but if this incident proves true he would view it as a symptom of growing Islamophobia nationwide.