Woman Humiliated After Sydney Bouncer Told Her To Take Off Her Hijab
A young woman says she has been swamped with online hate after she complained about a confrontation with a Sydney bouncer who told her to remove her hijab.
Soaliha Iqbal said she and her friends had arrived at the Paragon Hotel in Circular Quay on Friday night after attending a climate protest nearby, but she didn't make it inside.
The journalism student wrote about what happened next in an article on independent outlet 5why.
Iqbal claimed she went to hand her ID to the security guard at the venue's front door, who instead pointed to her hijab and said: "take it off".
"I froze, and just stared at him in shock," Iqbal wrote, adding the bouncer never asked for her ID.
"When I didn't respond, he repeated himself louder and more aggressively. 'What is that? Take it off'."
Iqbal wrote her face "burned with humiliation and rage".
In tears, she said she responded with a shaky, "Are you serious? This is my hijab".
Iqbal claimed the bouncer then asked her to stand aside when she refused to remove her hijab.
She claimed she was told she was "overreacting" to the request.
"I was humiliated, I felt violated, and more than that -- now I was being gaslit to convince me that my response to the violation of my basic rights was an 'overreaction'," Iqbal wrote.
She said she instead replied, "f*** you" to the bouncer, and walked away in tears.
Iqbal claimed she was then approached by a police officer who told her and her friends to move on from the pub's entrance.
"He continued to tell me that what had happened to me was not discrimination, and went as far as to say the situation was 'debatable'," she claimed.
Iqbal then claimed 14 officers showed up to deal with the incident - her failure to remove her hijab.
A spokesperson for NSW Police confirmed to 10 daily police attended the premises "following an interaction between a private security guard and a group of people".
"Police were satisfied there was no criminal activity and provided advice to the group on how to lodge a formal complaint," he said.
"Police remained at the location to prevent any breach of the peace. The group later dispersed without incident."
Iqbal shared photos and video of her interactions with police along with Paragon's manager, who she claimed defended the security guard's actions.
"The manager kept reinforcing it was reasonable to act like this on the basis of identification," she told 10 daily.
They continued to say I was at fault ... It was denigrating and insulting to be treated like I was the problem.
The owners of Paragon, Ryan's Hotel Group, later responded to a post Iqbal wrote on Facebook, apologising for the "unfortunate incident" and offering a similar explanation.
Operations manager Craig Wesker said Friday night was the bouncer's first shift at the venue, and that he no doubt wanted to "impress" management by "carrying out his duties and responsibilities diligently".
"Due to this diligence when checking you [sic] ID and trying to ensure he had facial recognition, he asked you to remove you [sic] hijab interpreting it as only a head scarf," Wesker wrote on Facebook.
“ … He asked you to step to one side so he could talk to you further about it. This action appears to have been interpreted by you [incorrectly] as the Security Personal (sic) denying you entry, for you refusing to remove your hijab.
"We would never demand such a request and unreservedly apologise for his mistake and by no means wanted to cause you offence.”
Iqbal replied on Facebook, saying the account was "incorrect", and a "poor attempt to pin a PR story as [her] being the victim".
"Your bouncer was not asking me to take my hijab off for ID purposes -- he never asked for my ID at all, actually. And even if he was, I am wearing a hijab in my ID photo, so it's hardly a reasonable request."
Iqbal told 10 daily she felt the apology was not genuine.
"They're not apologising; they're telling me I responded incorrectly to a perfectly reasonable request," she said.
"It was very insulting."
Paragon Hotel has not responded to 10 daily's request for comment.
Following the incident, Iqbal said she wrote the 5Why article to take the story into her own hands.
I wanted to be heard.
While the experience has been empowering, she said she has been inundated with hateful messages and emails online, one which has been seen by 10 daily.
"My phone has been blowing up," she said.
As a Muslim woman, Iqbal said she is not immune to being laughed at, or subjected to Islamophobic "aggression" in public.
But she said the amount of online hate she has received since sharing her story is extreme.
"I'm surprised by the level of effort some people have gone through," she said.
"I'm dealing with it, but at the end of the day, I hope something good comes from all of this.
"I just wanted them (Paragon) to take it as a learning moment, to be kinder to people. And it just didn't happen."
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