Tahsiyn A. Ismaa-eel, who runs an enrichment summer camp for learning Arabic, sometimes takes her kids to the public pool during the warm summer months. She has done it for the past four years and has never had any problems in Wilmington, Del., the state’s most populous city.
On June 25th, Ismaa-eel was at the pool when some of the children were told they had to leave the pool because they were wearing cotton clothing: shirts, shorts, and hijabs. Although it is not considered haram for young girls and women to go swimming, it is still expected that the females still display modesty with swim attire.
“We were harassed on four separate occasions,” she said. “She tapped several of them, like four little girls, tapped them and told them to get out of the pool.”
According to the News Journal, Ismaa-eel, who wears a hijab and niqab covering her face said a pool manager told her cotton clothing wasn’t allowed in public pools, adding that in her experience, the rule had “never been enforced.” She was then asked to leave by the manager and the police were called.
“If it’s a policy I said it has to be posted and it has to be applied across the board and not arbitrarily,” she said. She insists the “newly enforceable policy” was due to discriminatory practices against her and the children for being Muslim.
Wilmington’s mayor said the city used poor judgment in how they reacted to the incident.
“We should be held accountable for what happened and how poorly we assessed this incident,” Mayor Purzycki said. “I apologize to the children who were directed to leave a city pool because of the religious-required clothing they were wearing. We also referred to vaguely worded pool policies to assess and then justify our poor judgment, and that was also wrong.”
The mayor spoke of meeting the children and Ismaa-eel so that he can address their concerns and apologize directly. He also wanted to reiterate that residents wearing religious-related garb will not be bothered in Wilmington pools.
“I want to show the kids that you persevere,” she said. “You don’t quit.”