Muslim swimmers asked to stay out of Delaware public pool

The head of an Arabic enrichment program said she and a group of children faced discrimination at public pool in Delaware after they were told to stay out of the water because of the clothes they were wearing.


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Tahsiyn A. Ismaa’eel told Delaware Online she’s taken her program participants to the Foster Brown Public Pool for four years now — but this summer marks the first time they’ve had any issue there.

The children were wearing shirts, shorts, and hijabs at the time, Ismaa’eel recalled. She said the pool manager informed her that it’s against city policy to allow cotton clothing in public pools, a rule that she claimed is “never enforced.”

“There’s nothing posted that says you can’t swim in cotton,” said Ismaa’eel, who wears a hijab with niqab to cover her face. “At the same time, there are other kids with cotton on.”

She couldn’t help but wonder: “Why are my kids being treated differently?”

Despite her concerns over what seemed to be discrimination, Ismaa’eel, the owner and principal of the Darul-Amaanah Academy, said she would pass on the information to the children’s parents.

The pool manager though, was not satisfied and a few minutes later “had a police officer come come over and ask what time we were leaving,” she told Delaware Online. “She said there are other people waiting to get in and you have to leave.”

While it is typical for a city officer to be stationed outside the public pool, it’s unusual for them to enter the gates, she said.

Ismaa’eel pointed out to the officer another summer camp had been at the pool much longer than her group.

“We were approached first about the cotton, and then it became, ‘Oh, the pool is overcapacity so you need to leave,’” she said. “I felt very unwanted.”

In a statement from Mayor Mike Purzycki’s office, his deputy chief of staff for policy and communication said the issue of cotton is a legitimate safety concern. When wet, the material can become heavy and weigh down young swimmer and it also “strains the pools filtration system.”

That’s why there is a rule in place that “requires all swimmers to wear proper swimming attire.”

According to state regulations, bathing suits are “recommended” when swimming at a public pool, Delaware online reported. Neither the city nor the state specifically mention cotton in either of their regulations.


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