Muslim head scarf sparks civil rights complaint in Tulsa

TULSA - A civil rights group is speaking out after they say a Muslim woman was singled out at a Tulsa bank for wearing a head scarf.

Tulsa-based Valley National Bank says they told the woman she'd need an escort if she didn't want to take off her head scarf.  

Civil right groups call the move discrimination.

The Oklahoma Chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, known as CAIR, says a Muslim woman dressed in a traditional hijab was singled out at the bank last month at 81st and South Yale in Tulsa.

"This idea that she had to have an escort with her at all times, that's concerning, because it's something that's not applied equally to all customers," said Jillian Holzbauer with CAIR.

She says the woman decided not to stay and do business at the bank. Holzbauer says she later contacted them to file a complaint.

SEE THE CAIR COMPLAINT (http://bit.ly/CAIRlttr)

"We're simply asking the bank to review and revise the policy in such a way that it still meets their security concerns, but that it allows accommodations for religious headwear," Holzbauer said.

Valley National Bank of Tulsa tells us they have a "no hats, no hoods, no sunglasses" policy posted on bank doors. The bank says it adopted the policy from the Oklahoma Banker's Association to cut down on crime.

"I think there's a very clear difference between something like a ski mask, and something like a hijab. We understand the security concerns for sure. It being a bank, that's definitely a big concern," Holzbauer said.

The bank says they sent a letter explaining the policy to CAIR. The CEO even asked for the woman's address so he could apologize for making her feel "unwelcome."    

SEE THE LETTER (http://bit.ly/Bankletter)

"I assure you, it's to a bank's benefit, to be open to everyone in their community," said David Bernstein, a member of the Tulsa Say No to Hate Coalition and the Jewish Federation of Tulsa.

Bernstein would also like to see the policy changed.

"Being different doesn't mean they're wrong, or against us, or we're against them. It just means they're different," he said.

Bank CEO Brad Scrivner says they haven't had a complaint about the policy in the six years it's been in place.

Below is Scrivner's full response:

Since 2006 VNB has adopted the recommendation of the Oklahoma Banker's Association of "No hats, no hoods, no sunglasses"  and Valley National Bank has signage on the entry of each of its bank locations in Oklahoma.  This policy of the OBA adopted by Valley Bank is designed to protect both employees and customers from harm from any person entering the bank that cannot be easily identified. If a customer or prospective customer enters Valley National Bank wearing a hat, a hood, or sunglasses, it is the bank's policy to have an employee accompany the customer while in the bank to ensure safety for its employees and others customers.  In the six years that this policy has been in place, Valley has not had a single complaint until the most recent visit of Ms. ******, of Keifer, OK, who is not a customer of the bank, entered the bank wearing a head scarf and indicated that she did not want to remove her head scarf and the employee of Valley National Bank responded courteously that she would have to accompany her, at which point Ms. ****** left the bank. The bank received an undated letter from the Executive Director of CAIR almost two weeks after Ms. ******'s visit to the bank on October 9, 2012. A letter dated November 2, sent by the President of Valley National Bank to the Executive Director of CAIR explaining OBA recommendation that Valley has followed for six years without any complaints. Valley has received no response to the Bank President's letter of November 2nd in 2012.

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