Store changes policy on head coverings

First Lady Michelle Obama is not the first U.S. dignitary to wear a headscarf out of respect for Islamic traditions.
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, November 11, 2010; 5:50 PM

A Richmond-based convenience-store chain says it has changed its practice of asking customers to remove hoodies and headgear after a Muslim woman complained of being denied service because of her headscarf.

Tralesha Faison, 33, a Frederickburg hairstylist, said she went to a Fredericksburg Fas Mart on Tuesday morning to buy personal hygiene items.

"When I walked into the store, the cashier, she asked me to remove my kimar, my scarf," she said.

"I told her I wear this for the sake of God," she said. "She told me I had to take it off for her safety and security purposes."

Faison said she pulled her scarf back slightly but refused to remove it and was barred from making her purchase.

"I was humiliated, discriminated against, and I was embarrassed," she said.

In a statement Thursday, Fas Mart, which operates 213 stores across seven states, called the incident "regrettable" and said it had suspended the clerk pending an investigation.

"From what I understand, she said she was just doing what she was trained to do, which was to make sure that the face of this customer was visible for purposes of our security cameras and for the safety of our workers and other customers," said company spokesperson Tom Terry.

Terry said he knew of no other such incident at the company, adding that it employs Sikhs who wear turbans and Muslims who wear headscarves.

Faison returned to the store Wednesday and received an in-person apology from its manager. But, she said, "Not only does the manager of the store have to apologize, but the whole full company does."

The company said it considered its statement "as its formal written apology" and added that it would seek advice from the Washington-based Council on American-Islamic Relations on dealing with Muslims.

Faison said she is considering suing the company but added that she needs "a little more time to process the whole situation."

An attorney for her did not return calls.

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