Prejudice Against Local Muslims
by Monique Rembert
Prejudice is alive and well in Buffalo.
I just moved to Buffalo and had no idea there are certain towns that are so xenophobic they would institute rules broadcasting their bigotry. Friday, September 2 at about 3:30pm, I was not allowed into a Financial Trust Federal Credit Union in Cheektowaga because of my head scarf. The sign on the door is clear, I have seen them before: “No backpacks, no hoodies, no hats.”
“Okay, cool” I said. I made my very threatening-looking eight-year-old remove his baseball cap in compliance. Once at the door, however, the police officer (not security guard) told me I would have to remove my scarf before I entered. I told him this is part of my religion and of course I would not take it off. He still refused admittance.
I was shocked, to say the least, stating this is racist. “Everyone has to do it,” he said.
So everyone with a head covering has to remove their scarf? You would tell a nun to remove her habit if she chose to do business with you? If I am understanding this correctly, Financial Trust FCU and Cheektowaga Police Department—the department that willingly paid an officer to stand in front of the door to monitor traffic—is saying it’s okay to deny access to an institution based on a person’s religion. First, it was race now it is religion. Next I won’t be allowed into buildings because I am female: “I am sorry, ma’am, you either have to grow some testicles or leave.”
This is not the first time a Muslim (yes, I am Muslim, if it matters) has been targeted by Cheektowaga Police Department. When I told the other ladies in my community about another incident I had with CPD, they explained Muslims are always being arrested or pulled over in Cheektowaga for trivial matters. I have never encountered this type of blatant prejudice anywhere before. To be quite honest, I thought that was left in the 1960s and the South. I realize I might live in a bubble, but when the police department enforces rules like this it can only be one thing: profiling. I am not saying racial profiling because Islam and Muslims are all races and ethnicities. To have a reputation of law “enforcement” targeted at a specific factor such as race or religion is profiling nonetheless. In fact, I almost thought it was illegal or at least severely intolerable.
But back to the bank. Am I to understand no one who has decided to practice their faith outwardly is invited to pursue business at Financial Trust? What if last week I decided I want to practice my Christian faith and dress more modestly wearing a snood; would I even be allowed in the bank to close my account? Denying access to this credit union does not make sense. A federal credit union insured by the National Credit Union Administration made an executive decision to limit, if not cut off, all access to funds to members and potential members based on appearance; what’s worst is the police department supports this decision. Tax dollars are being spent on placing an armed officer at the front of a building.
I will never go to Cheektowaga willingly and I will not be stopping with just a letter to the editor. It is wrong, and if Financial Trust FCU, the Cheektowaga Police Department, and Cheektowaga and Buffalo residents don’t know it, hopefully you all will soon. Muslims are being unfairly targeted by this bank and Cheektowaga Police Department, and it must stop.
> Monique Rembert
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