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15 Arrested At Playland In Dispute Over Muslim Headwear

Members of group on holiday visit to park upset they were not allowed on some rides.

Fifteen people were arrested and the entrance to Playland was closed Tuesday afternoon after a dispute at the park involving religious dress.

Police from multiple departments from throughout Westchester County were called in for assistance.

The dispute broke out at about 2:30 p.m. near the park's entrance between members of the Muslim American Society of New York, according to Peter Tartaglia, deputy commissioner of Westchester County Parks. Fighting began when they were told they would be denied access to certain rides if they wore religious garb, Tartaglia said.

Two seasonal officers were injured while joining Westchester County Police who were trying to break up the scuffle, he said.

At least 60 police vehicles from eight surrounding departments quickly arrived at the park and park visitors say they thought that as many as 20 or more people were taken away from the park by police.

The park and its rides remained open Tuesday, but new visitors were not being allowed into the park. Tartaglia said no one inside was asked to leave the park.

Members of the Muslim American Society of New York said they were at the park today for a group visit, with members from Yonkers, Brooklyn, Queens and the Bronx. There were 3,000 members of the tour group, comprising half of the 6,000 patrons that visited Playland on Tuesday. The group was at the park celebrating Eid ul-Fitr (Festival of Breaking the Fast), which marks the end of Ramadan. The holiday lasts for three days and includes celebrations with prayers, sweets and presents for children, and community festivities.

Members of the group said that some of their fellow members sought refunds from that park and that led to a disturbance. Park officials dispute this, saying a refund was offered.

Tartaglia said the rules and regulations of the park were made clear before the group arrived, blaming group organizers for not conveying the message.

"Part of our rules and regulations, which we painstakingly told them over and over again, is that certain rides you can not wear any sort of headgear," said Tartaglia. "It's a safety issue for us on rides, it could become a projectile."  

Members were are at the park gates shortly after the incident, noting that they had not been able to get information about the status of friends and relatives. Members of the group said they were discussing what to do next — whether they should stay at the entrance to the park or leave.

"They just want to make our life a nightmare for no reason," said Akram Farghlay, while waiting outside.

Akram Ghadami, a member of the group, said they came to Playland to have fun and celebrate the holiday.

"We shouldn't be treated that way," Ghadami said. "We have a right to have a little fun like everyone else. Why are they making a big deal about this?"

He was standing at the entrance to Playland with several of his friends, waiting for others who were still inside the park.

"For some reason, they think everyone in there is a terrorist," Ghadami said.

Others said the situation was blown out of proportion, and didn't require such a large police presence.

"If that person had a problem, they should have just handcuffed the person and taken him away without making a big scene," said Ali Shibah, who was leaving the park with his wife and children.

The 15 arrested are charged with misdemeanors, Tartaglia said, but other charges are possible. Those arrested were taken to Westchester County Police offices in Hawthorne and Ossining. The suspects were mostly from New York City. They were arraigned and released Tuesday evening, according to a statement the county released Tuesday night.

The park's entrance was open by Tuesday evening.

Here's what Playland says about restrictions on head gear:

• Loose articles and personal possessions such as electronic devices, keys, hats, glasses, backpacks, purses and stuffed animals should be left at home, kept in a locker or left with a non-rider while at the Park or on rides. Lockers are provided for a fee, and some rides provide shared bins. All items and clothing must be appropriately secured while on a ride; some smaller items can be stored/secured in cargo pockets or waist pouches. Hats must be secured, and jackets/sweaters must be worn properly and not around the waist while on a ride. Some rides do not allow backpacks, purses or head gear of any kind.

john apicelli August 30, 2011 at 11:04 PM
Safety First For All... It doesn't matter who you are ....The Rules are blind where Religion, Race, Color, Etc. are concerned....
Grandpamike August 31, 2011 at 12:50 AM
@Eric I agree 100% with you on this. There is a park policy regarding headwear, it is a non-denominational policy not for any specific group.
MARC August 31, 2011 at 12:51 AM
Dan, I too was censored for simply stating that people must assimilate. Apparently Zack as many liberals want, has an issue with confronting reality and instead resorts to PC. Good call on CAIR. I believe as well this was a set up in some way. You can tell those on here who tend to give moral equivalency to all and those (like you Im sure)who watch Fox news, "get it" and will never ever forget 9/11. Booyaah.
Dan Seidel August 31, 2011 at 12:52 AM
It's unfortunate most western women do not understand " al-wala' wa'l-bara' " - goolge it. and then read the 5x daily prayers cursing the unbelievers. Please start understanding - you are dhimmi. This is dar al-harb . Jihad is on, whether you believe it or not. it starts this way and then in about a generation will progress to what in in Pakistan. Please, Monika, YOU start to understand. Stop thinking western - they want you to pay the jizyah or die. it's coming - no joke.
Lynne August 31, 2011 at 12:56 AM
So I am sure if a group of nuns had wanted to ride those rides they couldn't either because of their "head gear" the rule is for everyone!!!
alissa gray August 31, 2011 at 01:17 AM
My family was there today. I saw people of all ages, colors, sizes (thin, fat), religions, etc. being asked to remove all kinds of headwear. One ride was the go karts. A woman was wearing a head covering that trailed all the way down her back and to her ankles. It was very obviously not appropriate for the ride. (Google Isadora Duncan; not a pretty way to die!) The woman was told that she could not be on the ride with her headcovering, not that she could not be on the ride. She had a choice to make, and in the end, a man rode with the child she was with instead. I commend her for sticking to her guns. The park is obligated to keep the rides safe for others too. If the park didn't have these rules, people would be lining up to cast blame and sue the county if anyone were to be injured. As for the "riots", we saw nothing and heard nothing. We saw a bunch of people praying and assumed it was part of the muslim guests' daily routine. We had no idea anything was going on until we saw the very big police presence at the main gait. I've never seen so many cops in one place outside of a major city. It was clear they were concerned that things could go bad. Some people are blowing this out of proportion! It's not about assimilation, or politics or religion. It's a darn safety issue! We experienced a peaceful, calm day right til the end when we left around 5:30 pm.
Kelly August 31, 2011 at 01:18 AM
Safety does come first, and to make this an anti muslim issue is ridiculous. If you are not supposed to wear head gear for certain rides, then don't go on the rides. The County is 100% correct protecting park goers from hazards. If the women's head gear got caught in a door, or on a belt buckle and got strangled to death, they'd be saying the County provided inadequate warnings. Come on, this is not about terrorists, muslims, or anything else but SAFETY.
Dan Seidel August 31, 2011 at 01:18 AM
And Zach: Court decisions: you are not responsible for what we post, and we are being pretty cool about this. We could be much worse, MUCH WORSE.....but we are western and we TRY not to be like THAT (however patience is wearing real thin lately - but we count to ten and start over - what a country!)
MARC August 31, 2011 at 01:21 AM
Alissa, Interesting. So you say the park was NOT closed down before 5:30 as the story mentions?
Conservative NYer August 31, 2011 at 01:23 AM
IT IS A SAFETY ISSUE! Nothing more and nothing less. So everyone's safety should be compromised for those few who insist on NOT COMPLYING to the park's rules and regulations that are implemented for a reason.
Riverside August 31, 2011 at 01:33 AM
I was there today, and can say the majority of the Muslim community was fine with accepting the rules on "some" of the rides. There was however a group of individuals particularly some Muslim men in their 20s that I saw instigating the police and looking to make this about a race issue and were pushing the police by putting there iPhone cameras in the police face and then yelling when the police asked them to leave. You could feel the racial tension and I have to say it was coming from these individuals. There are good and bad people in all races and cultures and that is what I experienced at play land today. The other side unfortunately is that the police must react in force as counterterrorism based on past experiences. It is a shame that we must react in this manner over this kind of incident but it is certainly understandable based on recent incidents. You never know when it could be something of larger magnitude. I commend the police department and I am glad to know we have great security except that for those of us in the park with our children who did not witness the scuffle, it was pretty scary to walk out of play land and have your children witnessing this security force with no explanation..
Riverside August 31, 2011 at 01:43 AM
Lastly, there are rules to be followed wherever you go none have to do with race but more for safety and/or the welfare of others. Rules are rules, and there will always be individuals who want to break them or fight them. But for most, we all understand and dont have a problem following them.
MARC August 31, 2011 at 01:48 AM
This makes perfect sense as all it takes is a tiny group of people to make a small issue a much larger one, Unfortunately this is a HUGE issue. One of the reasons 9/11 happened is we decided to ignore a small majority of a decent religion that is an explosive one. The small group TODAY is no small way will make the NEXT 9/11 happen again. That is why I ask how the majority of the Muslim religion as a whole will recognize the 10th anniversary of an attack against OUR country. Will you side with this country or will you silence simply condone those in your religion who wish us harm? If you dont understand what Im saying and dont "get it" then you likely dont watch Fox news and you certainly arent part of the Tea Party. Prove me wrong/..PLEASE!
Satta Sarmah August 31, 2011 at 02:01 AM
Hello Everyone, Please remember to keep the discussion civil. Everyone can express their opinion in a respectful manner, but you must abide by our terms of service.
Dan Seidel August 31, 2011 at 02:04 AM
Thanks for checking for the posts. I am amazed. What you and I said is mild compared to what I've seen and posted myself elsewhere, where the forums allow. Seems to depend upon each editor. Dina in WhitePlains.Patch.com does not censor. we just keep it down because we like her and she does an EXCELLENT job, unlike the editor's conduct that is being displayed here. Despicable and unAmerican.
DW August 31, 2011 at 02:06 AM
Alissa WAS there and gives a real, concrete example. She's grounded in reality, so we can have a conversation. A lot of these postings are hysterical and paranoid fantasies. Shariah? That fear would be a joke if it weren't for the consequences of whipping up hatred of people who are different. Every minority in American has been targeted at some point in our history, and it's be ugly every time. Switch the word "Muslim" for some other group in some of the posts here: it'll remind you that race and religious hatred has a bad history. We need a little more common sense here. Islamist extremists don't like amusement parks, which let men mix with women and take people's minds off God. The Muslims at Playland were no different from you or me. They need to do a little better planning. next time, that's all.
Dan Seidel August 31, 2011 at 02:07 AM
And Zach, if you are not of the White Plains Oliva's, then I do not know your grandma. But as for the censored posts, now that we have your attention, what was objectionable?
Robert Blatt August 31, 2011 at 02:10 AM
with Sept 11 comming upon us, i see no harm in the heavy police presence. We will never know what government was behind it . But terrorisim is terrorisim , it dosent matter who is behind it. Only thing worse is when it is your own government behind it!!!!!
Zach Oliva (Editor) August 31, 2011 at 02:13 AM
Dan, I didn't see the posts on the story until a few minutes ago, when I noticed my grandma (not really my grandma) entered the conversation. This is a regional story, so more than one editor has access to keeping control of the dialogue. I didn't edit or read any of your removed posts, but I can only assume there was something that violated the terms of service. I can't give you specifics though, I didn't see them.
alissa gray August 31, 2011 at 02:18 AM
MARC, The traffic coming INTO the park was completely blocked, but not going out. We weren't told/asked/forced to leave. It might have been 5:25 - I have two young kids so I'm estimating the time. Point was, we were there pretty much all day and it was a pretty good experience.
alissa gray August 31, 2011 at 02:30 AM
RIVERSIDE - totally agree on this last sentence. We didn't know anything "serious" had ocurred. It was quite a display of 'we're not on parade duty, kids...'
Eric August 31, 2011 at 02:36 AM
@Lynne I think nuns have an additional responibility to relinquish all weapons, including rulers, when entering. Look at that, another universal rule :P
Robert Solari August 31, 2011 at 02:37 AM
They probably did set the whole thing up. Look at all the attention they got.
Rob August 31, 2011 at 02:40 AM
So, how about those Yankees ?
Bob Zahm August 31, 2011 at 02:41 AM
What does your silly post have to do with the price of tea in china? About as much as to do with the so called "riot" article. Unfortunately, Patch doesn't edit/delete for relevance as well as personal attacks, indecency, etc.
Steve Mustacchi August 31, 2011 at 02:42 AM
Satta, I admire your comment and your courage to put it here.
sage August 31, 2011 at 02:56 AM
It is because everyone wants to turn everything that they are upset about into something it is not. I'm not allowed to do this? Why?! Is it because I'm (insert religion/sexual orientation/gender/race/whatever)?! No it's a saftey issue. I'm not saying that it is always like that. Of course there really are bigots. But not every time.
Robert Solari August 31, 2011 at 03:16 AM
The Yankees Win! The Yankees Win!
Satta Sarmah August 31, 2011 at 10:36 AM
Hello Everyone, I've shut down the commenting thread on this story because while some commenters have stuck with the issue at hand—Playland's headgear policy vs. whether religious dress should be a part of the policy—others seem to be intent on discussing 9/11, Osama Bin Laden and Islamic extremism, which have no relevance to the incident that occurred at Playland on Tuesday. If the story dealt with those issues, then those comments—which would have to be in line with our terms of services—would be warranted. Thanks, Satta Sarmah Hudson Valley Associate Regional Editor
Satta Sarmah August 31, 2011 at 10:42 AM
Also, if you're curious about our terms of service, you can find them here: http://newrochelle.patch.com/terms ( Acceptable Use section).

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