‘Humiliated’: Embarrassing hijab request
A UNIVERSITY student was left feeling "humiliated and outraged" after a bouncer at a Sydney pub asked her to take off her hijab and then refused to let her into the premises when she didn't comply.
Since going public with her story Soaliha Iqbal, 21, has been subjected to vile online abuse from strangers who have questioned why she didn't go to a more "Muslim friendly" place instead.
Ms Iqbal said she and her friends had headed to the Paragon in Circular Quay for some food on Friday night after attending a climate protest in Sydney's CBD.
In a piece for 5why.com.au, the journalism student claimed that after trying to hand the bouncer her ID he instead "pointed to my hijab and said, 'Take it off'."
Ms Iqbal wrote that she was left staring "in shock" at the request, prompting the bouncer to ask her "aggressively" again to take her hijab off and say: "What is that? Take it off."
The student wrote that she responded by asking, "Are you serious? This is my hijab", before the bouncer told her to "stand aside" and "did not admit me into the premises".
Feeling "humiliation and rage" over how she was treated, Ms Iqbal alleges others around her began protesting on her behalf, but the bouncer only doubled down.
"Instead of apologising, the bouncer told me I was the problem for overreacting to a simple request," she wrote.
"I was humiliated, I felt violated, and more than that - now I was being gaslit to convince me that my response to the violation of my basic rights was an 'over-reaction'."
Upset, Ms Iqbal wrote that she replied "f**k you" to the bouncer before "walking away in tears".
She said 14 police were later called to help deal with the situation and claimed one officer "tried to intimidate us into moving" and didn't back her up.
Ms Iqbal wrote that the Paragon's manager also refused to apologise for the bouncer's actions and claimed she had just "misunderstood" and then "overreacted" to the situation.
She also shared videos of her interactions with police and the Paragon's manager over the incident.
The Paragon is yet to respond to news.com.au's request for comment over the incident.
Since first going public with her experience on Facebook, Paragon's owners Ryan's Hotel Group reached out to Ms Iqbal to "unreservedly apologise for (the bouncer's) mistake".
In screenshots of a Facebook message shared by Ms Iqbal, operations manager Craig Wesker apologised for the "unfortunate incident".
Mr Wesker said it had been the bouncer's first shift and he "no doubt wanted to impress" by "carrying out his duties and responsibilities diligently".
"Due to this diligence when checking your ID and trying to ensure he had facial recognition he asked you to remove your hijab interpreting it as only a headscarf," he wrote.
" … He asked you to step to one side so he could talk to you further about it. This action appears to have been interpreted by you (incorrectly) as the Security Personal (sic) denying you entry, for you refusing to remove your hijab. We would never demand such a request and unreservedly apologise for his mistake and by no means wanted to cause you offence."
Ms Iqbal responded by saying the message was an "incorrect account of events" and a "poor attempt" to blame her.
Ms Iqbal told news.com.au that while people in her own circle have been "really supportive" she's been inundated by abusive comments and Facebook messages, which news.com.au has seen.
"My Facebook message requests have been bombarded with people telling me that I should go back to my country (despite the fact that I was born here), to go live in the Middle East, that I'm disgusting, shameless, a disgrace, a poor excuse for a Muslim because I dared enter a premises that serves alcohol," she said.
"I've received hate for not choosing a more 'Muslim friendly' establishment - the victim blaming from the public is in full force.
"It's like, god forbid I was hungry and went to a pub with my mate so I could have some potato wedges."