Chicago Tribune: Public pool discriminated, agency says
By Gerry Smith
A Muslim family was wrongly denied access to an aquatic center in Lyons last summer when employees told them their clothing violated the facility’s rules, state officials said Friday.
In August 2009, Mahmoud Yaqub took his wife, Faten Alaraj, and two young sons to Cermak Family Aquatic Center, 7600 W. Ogden Ave., which is run by the Forest Preserve District of Cook County.
Alaraj was denied entry to the water park because she was wearing a long dress and headscarf instead of a swimsuit, according to a complaint filed with the Illinois Department of Human Rights. When she agreed to leave, Yaqub and his sons also were prevented from entering because park officials told them their swimsuits were not made of the proper material.
In the complaint, Yaqub said that he was wearing basketball shorts and that his sons were wearing children’s swimsuits.
Meanwhile, friends and relatives who did not wear headscarves entered the water park fully clothed in regular attire without problems, according to the Chicago office of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, which filed a complaint on behalf of the family with the Illinois Department of Human Rights.
The agency investigated and in a report released Friday concluded the family was wrongly denied “full and equal enjoyment” of the facility, and their denial of entry was “pretext for unlawful discrimination.”
“This incident is a blatant example of anti-Muslim discrimination,” Christina Abraham, civil rights director for the Chicago office of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, said in a statement. “Everyone is entitled to the equal enjoyment of public places.”
Steve Mayberry, a spokesman for the Forest Preserve District of Cook County, declined to comment.