Muslim Woman Challenges No Hat, No Hood Policy At Tulsa Bank

Wednesday, November 7th 2012, 10:31 pm
By: News On 6

Is it religious discrimination or a crime deterrent?

That's the question after a Muslim woman says a Tulsa bank's "no hat" policy offends her.

The woman does not want to be identified, but she reached out to the Council on American-Islamic Relations. They say Valley National Bank is discriminating against not only Muslims, but people of all religions.

Valley National Bank says it cannot back down from a "no hats, no hoods" policy.

The bank says it has other Muslim customers and has never received a complaint—until now.

On October 9, 2012, a Muslim woman wearing a traditional religious veil was walking into the bank when an employee told her she couldn't enter with a head scarf on.

The woman left without going inside and contacted Oklahoma's Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR).

"We decided that, ‘Well, lets first reach out to the bank before we go public with this information and see if it's a case of maybe just a misunderstanding or ignorance,'" said Adam Soltani, Executive Director of CAIR Oklahoma.

CAIR sent a letter to the bank, asking for an explanation of its policies.

Bank President Brad Scrivner wrote back, apologizing if the woman felt unwelcome. Scrivner said the bank adopted the policy in 2006 after several robberies.

The policy is meant to allow security to clearly identify and take surveillance pictures of every customer. If someone doesn't want to remove their head covering, they must be escorted to and from the teller.

"We were shocked and actually appalled," Soltani said. "Because religious headdress is different from the no hats, not hoods, no sunglasses policy that they stated they have."

CAIR says this isn't just a Muslim issue, but affects Jews, nuns and anyone else who wears religious headgear.

"No one should be made to feel unwelcome in any institution. We live in a country in which the Constitution provides us religious freedom," Soltani said.

Scrivner says it's not religious discrimination, because the policy applies to everyone, even a cancer patient wearing a head scarf.

News On 6 contacted the Oklahoma Bankers Association to ask if all banks have the same policy, but we couldn't get an answer by deadline time.

CAIR wants Valley National Bank to make religious headwear exempt from the ban on hats and hoods.

The bank president says, moving forward, all employees will adequately explain the policy to customers.