In a stunning instance of Islamophobia, Gazella Bensreiti, a mother from the Denver area, was told she must take off her hijab before entering Pepsi Center arena to watch her daughter sing the national anthem before a Denver Nuggets game.
In an emotional Facebook post, Bensreiti told the entire story, saying:
“Hey friends! As you all know, I’m not very active on here. Recently, I was a victim of blatant racial profiling and discrimination.”
“I figured social media is the best tool for getting information out as my experience was absolutely horrifying.”
“I am writing about an event that took place at the Pepsi Center in Denver, Colorado on Tuesday November 5th evening at 4:25 pm.”
“I am a 36 year old Muslim mom of 3 girls. My daughter was set to perform the National Anthem with her school choir at The Pepsi Event Center.”
“I was instructed to retrieve my ticket from Will Call by the school officials. Upon entering, a woman named Dorothea put her hand to my face and told me that I would have to ‘take that thing off’ of my head.”
“I told her that I would not take it off due to religious reasons. I was wearing a turban/cap.”
“I explained to her that it was my hijab and that I would not be taking it off, to which she responded; ‘I don’t care, you can’t come in with it on’.”
“I then asked if she’d be willing to take me to the side so that I could remove it and show her my entire head in private. Again, she told me no.”
“There were more than 5 white men standing ahead of me with baseball caps on.”
Naturally, the incident affected not only Bensreiti, but her young daughter as well.
“My 8 year old daughter became distraught and was pulling on my arm asking if they weren’t going to let me in to watch her perform.”
“Dorothea then went into an office and came out and waved to me to go ahead through, without making eye contact or even acknowledging me as a human being, but ushered me like an animal.”
Hey @nuggets @pepsicenter @Argus_LLC, how long have you been racially profiling people that attend your games? At Tuesday night's game, I was told to remove "that thing on your head" by your security. After defending my right to wear it, the same employee began harassing me.
— Gazella (@gbensreiti) November 9, 2019
After watching her daughter perform the national anthem with her choir, Bensreiti returned to her car as instructed.
She returned later, also as instructed and to speak with the people who wronged her.
“We were then instructed to return to Will Call because our tickets weren’t ready. I left and sat in my car and cried, I couldn’t even believe what just happened.”
“At 5:30, I returned to retrieve my ticket and asked for her name along with the other security person that was working.”
“Doreen gladly gave me her name but the woman that wasn’t allowing me entry, covered her name and told me that she wouldn’t be giving me her name. She then began berating me and yelling at me.”
“There are parents that were witness to her onslaught. I told her to stop talking to me to which she responded, ‘I’m going to set you straight’.”
“She then ran to the back again and had her manager speak with me, I told him that I wasn’t interested in talking to anyone and he wanted to know what happened. I told him my side of the story and he asked if I’d like to speak with someone about it, I told him that I would be seeking legal advice and will be filing an official complaint.”
“He was cordial and left me alone after that.”
— Alan Gionet (@AlanGTV) November 14, 2019
Bensreiti hopes nothing like this happens to anyone ever again.
“I have never experienced this type of trauma in my entire life. I know my rights as an American citizen.”
“Not only did she traumatize me and my daughter, she infringed upon my civil rights. I have never felt so embarrassed and broken before.”
“I wasn’t sure where to turn with this. I do know that Dorothea should be reprimanded for her disgusting behavior with me.”
“What happened is unacceptable and I want to make sure that it won’t happen again.”
Hey friends! As you all know, I’m not very active on here. Recently, I was a victim of blatant racial profiling and…
@pepsicenter the Pepsi center needs to fire this employee now
— Frankie Pentangeli (@5angelsfrankie) November 14, 2019
On Wednesday, November 13, Colorado’s Council on American-Islamic Relations brought Bensreiti to a press conference to publicly call on the Pepsi Center to change their policies regarding religious clothing.
“Wearing the hijab to me is part of my religion. It’s hard enough to wear your hijab and live your life as a Muslim woman.”
Totally unacceptable behavior and the employee should be reprimanded and taught morality and true freedom.
— Politics News Media (@PoliticsNewsUSA) November 13, 2019
Smells like a lawsuit coming on.
— met edge-ryan (@metedgeryan) November 13, 2019
The Pepsi Center offered a statement through a spokesperson claiming the employee at fault “didn’t recognize Ms. Bensreiti was wearing a hijab.”
“Pepsi Center prides itself on creating a safe and inclusive environment for all patrons regardless of race, gender, religion, national origin, disability and sexual orientation. We have reached out to Ms. Bensreiti and look forward to engaging in honest discourse that leads to greater awareness and an opportunity to further celebrate the diversity that makes Denver such a special place. While the matter is still under review, we are taking steps to modify our screening process and provide additional education for our staff.”
People fear what they don’t understand. The children’s board book, Hats of Faith available here, offers a “simple and striking introduction to the shared custom of religious head coverings. With bright images and a carefully researched interfaith text, this thoughtful book inspires understanding and celebrates our culturally diverse modern world.”