Wakeelah Salaam had been shopping by herself for less than ten minutes at the Bridegwater Commons Mall when a security guard approached her and told her to remove her traditional Muslim face covering.
“He said, ‘ma’am, I’m telling you, you cannot wear that mask in here. He came as close to me as though he was going to kiss me, and then he made the hand gesture like he was going to lift it up for me,” Salaam said.
Salaam was born in the United States, and was raised Muslim. She has always worn a long dress, or hijab, and a headscarf. But when she was in her mid-20s, she decided to start wearing the niqab, or face covering, that shows only her eyes when she’s in public.
She’s worn the niqab in court, and even to visit a relative in prison, so Salaam says she was shocked when she was approached twice by the same mall security guard Saturday. She eventually felt so uncomfortable that she called police.
“I felt threatened, like I couldn’t walk and shop in the mall without this man asking me to take off my niqab,” Salaam added.
After speaking with police, Salaam decided to leave Bridgewater Commons, which she had visited before with no problems. After Eyewitness News got involved, an executive with the company that runs Bridgewater Commons’ security called Salaam to say he’s sorry.
“We sincerely apologize”, said Donald Lantz, “Our security guard has received additional training in cultural diversity. We respect her right to dress according to her religious beliefs and she is welcome in our mall anytime.”
Salaam says she appreciates the apology, but next time she needs to go shopping, she will probably choose another mall.