What was supposed to be a quick stop for a family cookout quickly turned into a harsh lesson in discrimination for a mother of four who said she was kicked out of a Family Dollar store for wearing a niqab.
The incident, which was captured on cell phone video and took place in front of Sarah Muzdaher Safi’s children, began when Safi stopped inside a Family Dollar store in Gary, Indiana, Monday afternoon wearing the traditional Islamic veil.
Safi said she had gone to the store to pick up charcoal and was shocked when an employee demanded she either take off the niqab or leave.
In the video, an employee, who identified herself as a store manager, can be heard saying, "Yes ma’am, if you can’t remove that from your face, I’m going to need you to leave the store."
"I’ve worn my garments for a long time," Safi said. "I have never been treated like this in any establishment. Ever."
In the video, Safi tells the clerk she is wearing a religious garment.
“I understand, but you have to understand this is a high crime area where we get robbed a lot, you need to remove that from your face or remove yourself from the store,” the employee said.
The clerk told Safi to leave two more times before wishing her a “blessed day.”
"It's not just a blatant violation of the civil rights laws of this country but it's also a violation of the basic laws of decency and morality that you don't treat customers this way just because they have a different cultural background or a different religion,” said Ahmed Rehab with the Council on American Islamic Relations.
Family Dollar, which is owned by Dollar Express, did not respond to NBC Chicago’s request for comment.
Safi claims she contacted the chain about the incident and was told they were looking into it.
Safi said she won’t be going back to the store, but has a message for the woman in the video.
“I just want to understand….like I wish people would do of me. Just try to understand. I want to explain to her what I believe,” she said.