Sikh and Muslim groups file complaint against Boomers in California over headgear

Posted Wednesday, April 30, 2014 9:00 AM | Contributed by Jeff

Several Sikhs and Muslims in California announced filing discrimination complaints with the state on Tuesday, alleging that they were unfairly told they couldn't wear turbans and hijabs while riding go-karts at an amusement park with locations in California, Florida and New York.

Read more from KNTV/San Francisco.

Wednesday, April 30, 2014 9:02 AM

Their internal memo sure is rather damning. Seriously, have they never let a 14-year-old girl with long hair on a gokart before? (Or boy? It is California, after all.)

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Wednesday, April 30, 2014 9:43 AM

The difference is that long hair can't fly off.

I don't see a problem with the policy, and I certainly don't view it as religious discrimination. While the sentences "You can do what you want with your life. You just can't do it at our park." are a bit snarky for an official memo, the underlying point is that head wear presents a safety concern for go-kart riding. This gets back to the point we always bring up around here about having teenagers or low-wage workers in general (presumably the people that would operate a go-kart park) enforcing policies with no wiggle room. Are you going to let a go-kart operator judge if a particular piece of head wear is sufficiently "tucked in"? What happens if they tuck it in and it flies off anyway? Or do you just say: No head wear, no exceptions? No one would have a problem with this policy except for religious groups whose religion dictates that they wear head gear.

These people weren't prohibited from riding because they were Muslim; they were prohibited from riding because they refused to abide by the safety rules.

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Wednesday, April 30, 2014 10:34 AM

To be fair, there was an incident a few years ago where a girls burkha caught up in the machinery of a kart and throttled her instantly. I'd go with this being a safety issue, purely out of common sense. I recall regularly seeing signs prohibiting scarves, etc, as well as long hair being loose on rides...

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Wednesday, April 30, 2014 11:18 AM

Just ask Isadora Duncan.

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Wednesday, April 30, 2014 11:53 AM

Yes, hair is attached, and when it gets caught in something, the consequences are far more dire.

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Wednesday, April 30, 2014 12:27 PM

Yes, and long hair is mentioned specifically in that memo. I think it's fair to say that you can deal with long hair more reliably than you can the various forms of head wear that people sport.

Again, I don't see discrimination here. I see a group refusing to comply with the rules and then playing the victim. Or, as maybe Gonch would say, I see a group that cannot safely participate in an activity (because their religion prohibits them from removing their head wear) and then expecting the park operators to bend the rules to accommodate them, and suing them if they don't.

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Wednesday, April 30, 2014 12:47 PM

I'm just not seeing your side of it. So if hair ends up wrapped around an axle, there's blood. If a piece of clothing, which by the way those in question are far from loose in most cases, gets wrapped around an axle, nothing bad happens. And ironically, a turban is intended to contain long hair.

I'm going stick to the idea that the sentiment behind the internal memo was very much directed at religion, not safety. To their point, nothing dangerous appears to happen at Six Flags.

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Wednesday, April 30, 2014 12:50 PM

I think you have to take into consideration the design of both go-carts. Some may be better suited for making accommodations. And I suspect Boomer's "No Comment" on why Six Flags allows it is because they would have to spend quite a bit of money buying better go-carts.

Last edited by Fun, Wednesday, April 30, 2014 12:50 PM
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Wednesday, April 30, 2014 1:14 PM

From the article:

...previous catastrophes at go-kart tracks were caused primarily by loose clothing, long hair and headgear getting caught in the engine and other equipment.

The park's marketing VP claims that both cases can be dangerous, and it seems plausible to me. Is she lying?

Not letting Sikhs and Muslims whiz around the tracks, she said, "effectively bans thousands of local residents from riding the Go-Karts solely based on their faith,"

They don't have a policy against Muslims. They have a policy that prohibits riding go-karts while wearing things around your head and neck that could create a dangerous situation that would otherwise be easily avoided.

The memo could've been directed at safety and religion at the same time. Perhaps the park, while being responsible for operating these go-karts and knowing where potential risks are, anticipated that they would be confronted with this problem, and tried to address it head-on. I'll grant you that the memo wasn't very PC, but I'm not going to make the leap that the park is being run by a bunch of Islamophobs.

Consider this: what if a Muslim went to a go-kart facility that operated high-powered vehicles and thus required helmets? What if the helmets could not be worn safely with a turban or some other kind of head wrap? Would this be religious discrimination?

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Wednesday, April 30, 2014 1:20 PM

Muslims don't typically wear turbans, Sikhs do. Totally different religions. One is largely from Arab countries, the other from India.

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Wednesday, April 30, 2014 1:29 PM

Regardless, his point is still a good one.

And I agree with his previous channeling of LG's position/argument regarding autism. And in this case, their religion isn't a condition they were born with. They've chosen the religion, and furthermore chosen to strictly adhere to the associated tenets and behaviors. That their chosen behaviors are not safely compatible with certain activities isn't the park's problem.

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Wednesday, April 30, 2014 1:32 PM

I'll confess my ignorance of the specifics (I guess I don't have to since you revealed it), but what does that have to do with the point I'm making?

Last edited by Bakeman31092, Wednesday, April 30, 2014 1:33 PM
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Wednesday, April 30, 2014 3:01 PM

Everything. A turban in particular is no more loose clothing than your pants. I don't think that requires significant analysis, so in the absence of the willingness for Boomers to observe this, what's their motivation? To me, the action to take isn't some apparently arbitrary stance (and with an inflammatory memo), it's to say, "Gosh, let's look at this harder and see how we accommodate members of our community." Is that such a horrible thing to do?

This has nothing to do with the story or anyone commenting on it, but I guess I'm just tired of people and companies looking for ways to validate being dicks to people. Our culture spends far too much time on this.

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Wednesday, April 30, 2014 3:40 PM

Jeff said:

Everything. A turban in particular is no more loose clothing than your pants.

In order to be removed from your body (thus becoming a potentially dangerous loose article), pants have to slide beyond your hips, down both legs, beyond your shoes, then up out of the ride vehicle.

All a turban needs to do is become "untucked" and unravel.

There may be an argument about whether or not clothing flying off one's person becomes a dangerous loose article, but I don't see how a turban is comparable to pants insofar as difficulty to remove is concerned.

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Wednesday, April 30, 2014 4:28 PM

Jeff, I really think you're downplaying the potential for a legitimate safety hazard. I look at that picture of the go-kart at the top of the article (assuming that is the one in question), look at pictures of turbans and hijabs, and I can see why the park would be concerned about it. I would say the same thing about dresses, neck ties and loose shoelaces.

And, given the litigious nature of our culture, something that we talk about all the time on this site, I can't blame the park for being cautious. There has to be a happy medium between companies being dicks and customers walking around with a sense of entitlement. Maybe the park can make more of an effort to be as accommodating as possible, which may include modifying their go-karts or even buying all new ones, or maybe the customer can simply remove the potentially dangerous clothing. If religion wasn't involved here, if for instance a woman refused to remove a scarf because her mother made it for her and she wears it everywhere, I don't think anyone would come to her defense.

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Wednesday, April 30, 2014 4:36 PM

Ask someone who wears a turban or hijab. That's all I'm saying.

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Wednesday, April 30, 2014 4:46 PM

Fair enough, though I don't know when I'll get that opportunity.

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Wednesday, April 30, 2014 6:29 PM

So, just this afternoon I was standing in line at Tim Hortons and there was a young Muslim woman ahead of me. She had a short, pretty scarf wrapped rather tightly to cover her head and neck, with some loose ends that went below her shoulders. I happened to think that if she was at Boomers instead she would have a hard time getting onto those go karts, when in all actuality she would probably be in no more 'danger' than a lady who's wearing a wig.

What happens is the park is faced with making a 'rule' where judgement should prevail. But they're not going to draw a line between what's acceptable head or body covering and what isn't, for fear of offending half the people there, and they're certainly not going to let the go-kart boys make the call. So, they blanket policy everyone. That, combined with dickish remarks in response to protest, makes them look like bigots.

In addition to the Muslim headgear ban, I would hope they also have a no long skirt, ball cap, wig, visor, or weave policy to go with it. That would be the only thing that would save them from looking like bad actors.

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Wednesday, April 30, 2014 7:01 PM

According to their website (for Boomers Fresno) no headwear or neckwear is allowed on go carts. No hats, caps, visors, ear muffs, head phones, bandanas, scarves, ribbons, bows, neckties, turbans, yarmulkes, hijabs, doo-wraps, wigs or head wraps of any kind. They say they don't distinguish amongst headgear based on religious issues, medical conditions, one's fashion desires or anything else.

Whether they are consistent in enforcement is another issue.

It also says that "If you are a cancer patient or have another medical condition which has caused hair loss (and you are therefore wearing some sort of head cover), our hearts are sincerely with you-but our sympathies cannot allow us to waive our safety rules.

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