Black Muslim Kids Forced Out Of Pool For Cotton Clothing

A group of low-income black Muslim elementary school kids in Delaware were told that they were not allowed inside a public pool because they were wearing cotton.

Black Muslim kids in Delaware were told not to use a public swimming pool because of their attire.

The incident was a shock to Tahsiyn A. Ismaa-eel, who had been taking her elementary school kids to the pool for years without encountering any problem, until now.

Ismaa-eel owns the Darul-Amaanah Academy and runs its summer Arabic enrichment program, For the past four years, she has been taking elementary school kids to the pool. But on June 25, she was at the Foster Brown Public pool in Wilmington, Delaware, when a pool manager told kids wearing cotton clothing, which included hijabs, that they were not allowed inside the pool. Ismaa-eel was then told that was a rule in all public pools, to which she explained in response that the rule had never been enforced until now.

After she said she would let the kids’ parents know about the policy, the manager apparently called the police, as an officer approached her to ask her when she and the kids would be leaving.

The officer then told Ismaa-eel that people were waiting for her and the children to leave so they could go in. But according to her, there had been a group using the pool for longer than hers, and yet, “No one is bothering them,” she said.

“We were approached first about the cotton, and then it became, ‘Oh, the pool is overcapacity so you need to leave.’ ... I felt very unwanted,” she told reporters.

After the incident, she told reporters that it was clear that they were discriminated against.

“There’s nothing posted that says you can’t swim in cotton,” she said. “At the same time, there are other kids with cotton on. … I asked, ‘Why are my kids being treated differently?’”

On Saturday, Mayor Mike Purzycki apologized for the way the city dealt with Ismaa-eel and her kids, however city police continue to claim that the no-cotton rule must be upheld.

John Rago, Wilmington deputy chief of staff for Policy and Communication admitted that the rules as posted are poorly worded and hard to understand because they makes mention to “proper attire” only, without naming cotton-made products. Authorities are working on a new set of guidelines, which would be posted prominently at public pools following this incident.

Rago said that the new rules should read: “Swimmers must wear proper swimwear (swimwear composed of Nylon, Lycra, Spandex, and Polyester is permitted, but cotton and wool clothes are not permitted).”

He added that Ismaa-eel’s kids are allowed to continue using the pool while wearing cotton until the new post goes up. Still, once the new rules are visible, kids will have to change their attire or forego having fun in the water.

Unfortunately, Ismaa-eel said, this piece of news was a hard one to deliver to parents.

Because of their humble means, they might not be able to afford new swimwear for their children. And hijabs and other modest swimwear are often expensive.

Like other black pool patrons in the recent past, this incident with Ismaa-eel and her academy’s kids may have been rooted in racism as well as prejudice against Muslims.

By now, this story line has become tiring and repetitive, begging the question: When will minorities be allowed to simply enjoy their lives just like anybody else without being harassed?


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