Mayor Mike Purzycki (D) of Wilmington, Delaware is now apologizing for what he calls a "use of poor judgement" regarding a local Islamic school camp who were pressured to leave a public pool on June 25th.
Tahsiyn A. Ismaa'eel, the camp director of a summer program run by the Darul-Amaanah Academy, a local Islamic school, says her campers have been using the Foster Brown pool for four years and never could have anticipated what happened to them on June 25th––the first day of camp.
Members of the Darul-Amaanah Academy say they felt pressured to leave the Foster Brown public pool in Wilmington for wearing cotton to swim.
According to Ismaa'eel, facility management suddenly had a very negative reaction to seeing cloth garments in the pool––specifically the hijabs that some of the girls elected to wear while swimming. The pool manager repeatedly came back to harass the camp leaders, asking them when they were going to leave.
Eventually, Ismaa'eel decided to take the kids out of the pool. "If you are making us so uncomfortable that we aren't enjoying a public facility, if you're pressuring us by asking what time we're going to leave ... I got the message," she told the Huffington Post.
@MikePurzycki Mayor Mike Purzycki’s office, "the issue of cotton is a legitimate safety concern. When wet, material… https://t.co/VKFx3iVKGL— will bodnar (@will bodnar)1531622772.0
Despite reaching out to the Wilmington Department of Parks And Recreation, who confirmed that the kids were indeed permitted to wear religious attire in the pool, the campers and camp staff were harassed about the policy on three other occasions.
According to Ismaa'eel, the policy is not posted anywhere within the sight of the pool itself, so she's not buying that that's the reason her camp is being scapegoated. "The bottom line is, if you have a policy, it has to be written, posted, and applied across the board ― not arbitrarily," she said.
"What happened at Brown pool, from my estimation, is that [the pool manager] weaponized an unwritten policy to target us and to try to keep us out of the pool, to antagonize us and get us banned from the pool," she continued.
Black folk should care when Muslims are expelled from pools. Muslims should care when black folk are kicked out of… https://t.co/vRZRqBebET— Simran Jeet Singh (@Simran Jeet Singh)1531621482.0
Muslim children made to leave a public swimming pool b/c they "were wearing cotton." •Its a public swimming pool •… https://t.co/nol1VZywrO— Qasim Rashid, Esq. (@Qasim Rashid, Esq.)1531762224.0
Clothing restrictions like this are never, ever about "safety". They are thinly veiled acts of racism and Islamopho… https://t.co/73A1GS3woi— Shireen Footybedsheets Ahmed (@Shireen Footybedsheets Ahmed)1531623194.0
Mayor Purzycki reached out in an official statement to apologize for the pool management's behavior.
"We should be held accountable for what happened and how poorly we assessed this incident, said Mayor Purzycki.
"I apologize to the children who were directed to leave a city pool because of the religious-required clothing they were wearing," he continued. "We also referred to vaguely-worded pool policies to assess and then justify our poor judgement, and that was also wrong."
This is why I don’t swim in America anymore. https://t.co/KLFBbfqmHW— Rowaida Abdelaziz (@Rowaida Abdelaziz)1531689794.0
This is the kind of quotidian xenophobia that Muslim-Americans have to deal with daily in this country. It's simply… https://t.co/d9QcbsfBHH— Emma Vigeland (@Emma Vigeland)1531684247.0
While Ismaa'eel accepts the apology, she believes it is not enough. The environment at Foster Brown has become so hostile that she is considering taking her kids to other pools.
"It's so important. It's part of your summer experience. Kids love to go to the pool," she said. "Our special-needs kids especially, they enjoy the water. This is therapeutic for them."
The mayor has had no further or direct contact with the camp, and Ismaa'eel says she will not stand around and let her kids be targeted by a group of adults and a "no-cloth items" policy. The city of Wilmington would do well to protect its children from prejudice in this time.