On the Saturday evening
of August 29, 1998, I (Saajidah Mahmood) went to Walgreens, a local
store in my grandmother's neighbourhood, to get my children some diapers
and milk. I am a Muslim woman out of many who wears the proper hijaab,
which consists of the total face being covered, my hands, feet, and
entire body in total black.
The security guard of Walgreens store saw me come into the store and
allowed me to walk throughout the store shopping for my merchandise.
When it was my turn to pay for my items at the cashier's register, the
security guard approached me in a very hostile manner saying "Do you
speak English? Do you speak English?" He yelled this twice in my face.
I did not say anything
at first because I knew that there was about to be some major drama,
and I needed to think about what I was going to say to this man and
what would be his reaction.
So he started yelling in my face that "I was to take that mask off right
now!" I told him that "I am a Muslim woman, and that I am required by
my religion to cover every inch of my body to outside men whom are not
At this, the security guard become more furious with me, and he told
me that "I was to take that mask off my face immediately and that if
I did not then he was going to throw me out of the store!"
So of course I am becoming a bit afraid. My hands in my gloves grew
sweaty, and I became immediately very hot under my garments. But Subannallah!
I held my ground firmly, and I told the security guard again " I have
explained to you the purpose of my covering and that I REFUSE to remove
my veil for any man outside of my husband and male relatives!!!!!!!!!"
At this point I turned towards the cashier and told her that I wanted
to speak to the supervisor. I was told that he was not in. So I asked
to speak to the manager. So the manager came out of the back of the
store. He came walking towards me as if he were ready to listen to my
complaint. But sure enough, the security guard intersected the manager
from coming directly to me by jumping in front of me and pulling the
manager to the side saying to him quietly with a slight laugh that "I
am just doing my job!"
When I tried to get the manager's attention, he just walked away from
me only repeating what the security officer had told him. I was now
extremely angry! and I started walking behind the manager asking him
for a copy of the policy of Walgreens stating that "any customer who
comes into a Walgreens store with a concealed identity would have to
remove it. The manager said "I do not have any policy." But he told
me this with his back turned, not even acknowledging my rights as a
The security guard was still standing behind me with his stick raised
in the air, over my head as if he wanted to hit me while I was talking
to the manager. I turned around and I told him that "I will see you
in court sir for religious harassment!" "And for Discrimination!" Then
he started yelling at me "get out of my store." asked him for
a phone so that I could call the real police to make out a harassment
complaint. and the security guard told me to "get out" and "go look
for a phone!" So, I did purchase my merchandise while the security guard
was standing with his stick over me, and I quickly grabbed my 7 year
old daughter by the arm,(whom was also dressed in a little Khimar and
Jordanian style jilbab) by the arm and I walked outside to the pay phone,
from there I called the police, and they arrived at Walgreens in about
5 minutes. So, I explain to the real police what went down and he told
me that this was a civil case and that I needed to take this to the
courts. So Alhumdulilah I did just that!
So, I rushed home and explained to my grandmother what happened to me,
and she was so happy that I stood up for myself mashallah. So the next
day I found this Islamic Police Brutality, and Discrimination hotline
number, that I did call. And I spoke to a Muslim attorney , and the
battle of the law suit was on!
The Walgreens store agreed to settle out of court and I won $3,000 settlement.
Walgreens has agreed to do Islamic sensitivity training for all of their
employees district wide!