VIDEO: Muslim Group Says Playland, Police Response Excessive

Muslim patrons confronted by law enforcement tell a different version of Tuesday's events than park officials. Fifteen members of their group were brutalized, they say, for their beliefs.

Outside the gates of Playland, on Tuesday afternoon, a group of more than 50 Muslim visitors to the park bowed to pray. They waited for news about the 15 additional members of their group arrested earlier in the day after a confrontation with park rangers.

They were a smaller contingent of the approximately 3,000 Muslim visitors to the park that day. For them, it was a fun, holiday outing that had turned into an ugly affront against their beliefs and culture.

Two rows of men and three smaller rows of women—some on prayer rugs, others on the pavement—faced the park’s courtyard fountain, then placed their heads on bended knees.

Just yards away outside the park’s entrance gate, a row of Westchester County police stood in helmets and protective vests. More than 40 law enforcement vehicles, cruisers and SUVs, even canine units, from municipalities across the county, lined the entry road to the amusement park. Even more law enforcement officers blocked park access roads in all directions. And there at the front gate of the park, a row of police officers stood on one side of a barricade and while the group of Muslim patrons sat and milled about on the other. Behind it all, the rides continued. Children bounced on the Jump N’Bean ride and other Muslim patrons, not part of the group, walked in and out of the gates of the park.

All because of the chain of events that unfolded after a young Muslim woman named Haifa Ali questioned the ride operator who told her to remove her hijab.

The account of the afternoon’s events told by members of the group gathered around the Playland fountain is decidedly different than the one released by park officials. According to a statement released by Playland, “park security had to intervene.”

“In the course of restoring calm, two park rangers suffered injuries and had to be taken to a nearby hospital,” says the statement. The statement does not include what injuries were sustained by the park rangers, nor does it say exactly what charges were assigned to the 15 patrons who were arrested. 

The anxiety among the women was palpable. Some stood together in a circle, others sat on benches. They waited for news of their daughters and sons, taken away in police vans by police. Why had they been treated this way, they asked.  

From their vantage point, on Tuesday afternoon, law enforcement, both park rangers and county police, acted aggressively and excessively, subduing and beating a woman as she lay on the ground and roughing up others who tried to defend her, though Westchester County Parks Deputy Commissioner Peter Tartaglia said on Tuesday afternoon he had not heard of such an incident taking place.

For the Muslim group, the number of officers who came to the park seemed to them a disproportionate response to a group of women patrons who questioned park policy and demand a refund.

Haifa Ali said that she and a group of young women tried to enter the Dragon Rollercoaster ride at around 2 p.m. on Tuesday. The park ride operator told Haifa she would have to remove her hijab.

Haifa says she asked the operator why and attempted to explain that her scarf was part of her religious observance, only underscored by the fact of it being a Muslim holiday.

Ali said she has visited other amusement parks where she was able to ride without removing her scarf and did not understand why, at this ride, she was being challenged.

“This misunderstanding was very unfortunate,” Tartaglia said. “Our headgear policy is designed to protect the safety of patrons and safety is our first concern. This policy was repeatedly articulated to the tour operator, but unfortunately the message did not reach some of the members of his group.”

After an exchange with the ride operator, Ali says she and a small group of women went to the front gate of the park to demand refunds. They thought they were being denied access to the ride not because of safety reasons, but because of their religious dress, which encourages women to wear modest clothing and, if they choose, cover their hair with a scarf called hijab.

Most of the women in the group gathered around the fountain wore the scarves over their hair, tightly across their foreheads, and inside the park, women could also be seen wearing veils that covered their faces.

From that point, members of the Muslim group visiting the park tell a very different story than Playland officials.

Ali says that at some point while she and the women were at the front of the park, someone grabbed her hijab. She said a park ranger wrestled another one of the women in the group to the ground. From there, she says law enforcement began to converge on the group, hitting them with batons and pinning some of the women to the ground.

A Yonkers woman not with group would not give her name, but said she saw a female park ranger hit one of the women in the group repeatedly with a baton. The eyewitness said that the woman said, as she lay on the ground, something about her scarf being her religion and the park ranger yelled “I don’t give **** about your culture.”

According to the witness, the Muslim woman was on the ground trying to hold her garment down when other members of the group came to her aid.

Ali said when some of the men in the group saw that women were being hit, they came over and objected and they were also struck by the police officers and arrested, including Ali’s brother.

At around 5 p.m., a county police officer came to the police barricade separating the two sides and spoke with one of the men in the group. The women arrested were being held in Hawthorne and the men in Ossining. The group could go to pick them up.

Word was quickly relayed to two of the parents, sitting crosslegged in front of the fountain. Some of the men said they should leave, others insisting they should stay put. The mother promised she would not leave the park until her children were brought back by the police officers who took them away. The father rose from his seated vigil, pondering what to do next.

Click here for our original story on the Playland incident: http://patch.com/A-l8r6

Dan Seidel September 01, 2011 at 11:57 AM
problem with the interpretation is that the "moderates" are not in the mainstream worldwide. Moderates are ones who leave the true faith, therefore subject to death (sharia). leaving the true faith is worse than being an apostate - ask Prof. Shameem Abbas (Pakistani woman of Muslim faith, prof at SUNY) who now has a death sentence on her head should she go home. She is a modern western woman - irreconcilable with sharia and islam. Officially, and check all this out PLEASE, it's " al-wala' wa'l-bara' " - bad for the west and kuffar. There are levels to this onion and must must start peeling NOW. lots of tears. I have an interpretation: we either live secularly with a western civilzation and law base or we kill each other off (and bring on the Mahdi - some in Iran would like that). How's this one for paranoia: M.A.S., as an arm of Hamas and either iran or the Muslim Brotherhood (Ikhwan Muslimim) sets this up as one of several proxy attacks to see what the NYC suburban police reponse would be and from where the forces would be drawn (3000 muslims in one place 2 weeks before 9/11 - alerts running hot now - hair trigger responses expected) then in the future, Indian Point or something like that is attacked when something like this happens again - create a diversion first good enough for a CAIR lawfare suit if nothing else - a win - innocent enough and then, do this again and commit a "Breivik" thing. Worthy of a Tom Clancy book, if this weren't so real.
SRT September 01, 2011 at 12:47 PM
Dan, You really are one paranoid, frightened person aren't you? I feel for you.
Dan Seidel September 01, 2011 at 12:56 PM
we all are, depends upon the subject. here's the parallel: ask your town's "first responders" (we all have them) what's one of the terror scenarios they train for and expect? for a few years now, it's been a "Breivik" type scene with secondary and tertiary attacks, after the first - either on scene or at other locales, simultaneously - drawing in some responders to take them out, and drawing forces away from locale, so other attacks can take place. Oh, and like Beslan, it's expected to go down first at a school or hospital or another public and crowded place, like a mall, with hostage taking. muse on that.
SRT September 01, 2011 at 01:25 PM
Dan, I don't think you should project your pathologies on to others, it may be a comfort to you but doesn't it doesn't lessen your issues. If the focus of first responders is a Breivik style attack, I hope you are as concerned about radical Christian fundamentalists as you are about those scary Muslims at playland.
Francis T McVetty September 01, 2011 at 03:17 PM
SRT [If the focus of first responders is a Breivik style attack, I hope you are as concerned about radical Christian fundamentalists as you are about those scary Muslims at playland]. When was the last time that a "Christian fundamentalists" blew up the WTC? Blew up an airplane? You have to go back to Timothy McVey and he wasn't even a "Christian fundamentalists". You miss the whole point, it was a group making a statement. They don't want to follow the rules because they don't respect them. They are NOT their rules so we don't have to obey them. We see this in Europe everyday. We saw this in Texas where a man kills his own children because they were becoming to westernized. If you don't like the laws than change them, through legislative action,or live some place else.
joann cancro September 01, 2011 at 03:35 PM
Dan, your knowledge of the subject at hand is sound....not paranoid. History (the facts) support your perspective. SRT your words have fire in them. It seems to me, that you are lashing out at the messenger, rather than the source of the problem- and that is a specific group demanding the rules don't apply to them. No one on this link is happy with what happened, but not facing it straight on in a post 9/11 world is putting ones head in the sand. Sad, but true.
David Smith September 01, 2011 at 03:50 PM
Don't recall saying that Playland was unsafe. You seem to equate praying with something being unsafe. I don't. That's a good example about what I have said about interpretation. I was trying to inject a little humor and someone interprets it to be a statement about safety. This is why the written word including religious texts can and have been misunderstood and abused.
Billy L September 01, 2011 at 03:57 PM
Why would someone pray before they get on a ride? That was not a far out assumption for me to make about the point you were trying to make. Why don't you just say what's on your mind next time instead of word games.
Dan Seidel September 01, 2011 at 05:46 PM
Thanks Joann. The stuff is pretty well documented - very available. What I speak about is not farfetched - just well researched - just because one denies or can not conceive of the existence of things, does not make them disappear and become non existant. One more - a link to a bio on the Muslim American Society, who the players are, who is connected to whom, what the organizational purposes are... please read and learn - we should educate ourselves on who and what we are dealing with. Only then can informed and reasoned decisions be made, conclusions drawn. http://www.investigativeproject.org/documents/misc/85.pdf
Christopher Koulouris September 01, 2011 at 08:52 PM
Does that then mean what is more important is enforcing rules even if it means cracking having to occasionally crack someone’s head open? Which is to suggest what we should instead applaud is a culture that enforces its own preferred version of aesthetics and rules even with degrees of violence? Or is it simply a situation that if you refuse to abide by the rules then you should be bear the consequences? http://scallywagandvagabond.com/2011/09/woman-refuses-to-take-off-hijab-50-cops-waiting-to-arrest-her/
Francis T McVetty September 01, 2011 at 09:19 PM
Christopher, why don't you take a trip to Greece and join in their demonstrations and then report back here with the results. If you are going to resist arrest, then you will suffer the consequences. Did you read the article you posted. You don't think it was slanted in any way? Maybe if some of them could read or understand the rules, this incident may not have occurred. Or maybe that is what this group wanted.
Ross Revira September 01, 2011 at 10:56 PM
Nobody's head was cracked open. Why are you perpetrating the spreading of false information. The county park officials and police should be congratulated for their quick and measured response. The cause of the problem was the organizer of the event who failed to convey the rules and members of the group who started fighting among themselves. My culture and religion smokes pot so in your world when I get arrested the police are wrong. The laws apply to everyone not the groups that you agree or disagree with. Wake up before it is too late.
John Tirella September 01, 2011 at 11:19 PM
Just don't do business with them! Pretty simple. They will go away by themselves!
Meredith Lesly September 02, 2011 at 12:44 PM
There are about 1.5 billion Muslims in the world. Do you Islam-haters seriously think that over 20% of the world's population hates America? Do you consider Indonesia an enemy state?
John Tirella September 02, 2011 at 01:31 PM
Question # 1. Yes. Question # 2. Possibly in the very near future.
ASleepyBoy September 02, 2011 at 02:11 PM
I am with Sahib except that I want to clarify that it's likely way more than just 20% that hates America.
Meredith Lesly September 02, 2011 at 03:17 PM
So you consider Indonesia, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Egypt, Turkey, Algeria, Morocco, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Kazakhstan, Niger, Mali, Senegal, Tunisia, Guinea, Somalia, Azerbaijan, Libya, Kuwait, Albania, Bahrain, and several other countries all potential enemies in the very near future.
David Smith September 02, 2011 at 03:52 PM
People pray for all kinds of reasons just because you wouldn't before getting on a ride doesn't mean others might not. I never play word games, some people have been known to pray when they are scared like say on a scary roller coaster. You simply have proven a point that I made earlier that the written word can be interpreted several different ways including badly as in your case (twice). I make a joke you consider it some type of statement on safety. I clarify and you still insist on taking it in a negative way saying I'm playing word games. So you have proved my point twice, thanks. It all about interpretation some people always look to the negative or find a way to make a message negative no matter what it means or what it says even after clarification. This is why religious texts have been used in the past and will be used in the future as an excuse to kill people and start wars. Religion has always been a good way to bind people together and get them thinking on the same wavelength but it has always been about power and dominance. I think some on the board focus to much on the religious aspect and fail to look deeper and see the real reason for why the many in the middle east hate us.
Ellen B September 02, 2011 at 05:03 PM
don't forget Detroit.
Ellen B September 02, 2011 at 05:19 PM
Oh forgot Paris.... Don't you worry about them Muslims, their history ain't too attractive on this front, that whole my way is the highway kinda thing. And yes I realize they come with directions to kill the infidel. But I wanna tell you they are cuddly. As the liberal will tell, look how many of them there are, they can't be all bad. Muslims giving anybody trouble, c'mon, when has that ever happened. Peace on earth good will to men. Someone's power's back up again, time to get to work doing nothing. Let's chicken pick facts off the internet and get on with wasting this lifetime. Let's get on it. Don't you worry about them Muslims, they love you.
Meredith Lesly September 02, 2011 at 05:46 PM
I'm not even going to bother with your silly points, other than to say it's both absurd and paranoid to think that over a billion people want to kill us. Then again, you think that 9/11 was a false flag operation, which means that in your world Christians are the biggest mass murderers in the US, not Muslims. You should really get your paranoias straight.
Ellen B September 02, 2011 at 06:16 PM
Christians and Muslims are the biggest mass murderers in the history of the world, chew on that fun fact. As to 9 11, I have no idea what you are saying. I was told of this site and have come to view it and you, as a kind of science project. One billion muslims don't want to kill us, all Christians in pews don't want to kill everyone either. That doesn't mean the Holy Roman Empire didn't exist, just as the Muslim agenda isn't written and exist as well. Status quo for the rock is war, peace is an historic abnormality. Hug a muslim.
Ross Revira September 02, 2011 at 06:17 PM
Is there any group that threatens America you don't like? You probably think Israel is the problem in the Mideast.
Ellen B September 02, 2011 at 06:21 PM
Syria is next. If you think you've seen ugly, you've seen nothing yet.
Meredith Lesly September 02, 2011 at 06:24 PM
The majority of Muslims are working, raising their children, trying to have a decent life. That's where they are.
Dan Seidel September 02, 2011 at 06:30 PM
Potential? nah, they are there already- 57 of them - didn't Obummah say he visited all 57 states? You Forgot Dearbornistan and Islamburgh/Deposit, NY.
Meredith Lesly September 02, 2011 at 06:36 PM
No, I don't think that simplistically. Israel has at times been an impediment to trying resolve the situation there, as have other countries. That doesn't mean that I think that "Israel is the problem in the Mideast."
Meredith Lesly September 02, 2011 at 06:39 PM
If you had watched the video, you'd know that's not what he said. He started to say "fifty", paused when he realized that he hadn't gone to every states, and then continued with "seven", having accidentally omitted the word "forty". He also addressed it a short time later along with something else. How extraordinary you are to have never made a verbal slip. Pretty much everyone I know has, including me.
David Smith September 02, 2011 at 06:44 PM
Historically speaking I have to agree both groups have committed terrible atrocities against other members of society who have not been members of their religion. The question we need to ask now is how do we avoid these atrocities in the future? Moreover, is the religion the problem or is it just the age old problem of who has, and who wants power to shape the world as they see fit? Is this a concerted effort by an entire religion or the work of a reletivley small group of fanatics using religion as an excuse. The debate on the board has shown we do not agree to the scope of the problem which concerns me as much as the threat. If you can't identify the problem and the size of the problem it is even more difficult to attack the problem.
Dan Seidel September 02, 2011 at 06:46 PM
Expect Obummah and Holder, the ATF agent felony murderer, to get involved here. In fact, POTUS wants to eliminate the 1st Amendment through the UN so we cannot criticize islam and equate it with nazism - here - read: http://www.aina.org/news/20110901100024.htm NOBAMA IN 2012!!! or we are in for more of M.A.S. Hamas tactics.


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