Muslim swimmers asked to leave public pool because of their clothing

“A municipal swimming pool in Delaware is under scrutiny after Muslim children were asked to stay out of the water because of their clothing. Tahsiyn Ismaa’eel runs a summer Arabic enrichment program, and sometimes takes campers to the Foster Brown public pool in Wilmington. Ismaa’eel says some of her campers were asked to leave the pool on June 25 because they were wearing cotton shirts, shorts and headscarves. It was one of four incidents in which the kids were told not to wear the clothing, which is part of their religious observance, at the pool, according to Ismaa’eel.

“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.” Ismaa’eel said that the rule against wearing cotton in the pool is not published anywhere and is being enforced in a discriminatory way against her kids. “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.

An official in Mayor Mike Purzycki’s office initially said cotton poses a safety risk because it becomes heavy when wet and because it strains the pool’s filtration system.

On Saturday however, Mayor Purzycki sent out a statement saying it was “wrong of the City to ask children of the Muslin faith to leave a City pool because of religious-related clothing they were wearing.”

The mayor said the city used poor judgment in how they assessed and reacted to the situation. “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 said he hopes to meet with the children and their camp director soon so that he can address their concerns and apologize directly. He also assured residents that religious-related garb is allowed in Wilmington pools.

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