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Religious groups file complaint against Boomers amusement park in Irvine

Two organizations representing Muslims and Sikhs have filed a discrimination complaint against an amusement park.
April 29, 2014 12:00:00 AM PDT
Two organizations representing Muslims and Sikhs have filed a discrimination complaint after some customers were turned away from a go-kart ride in Irvine. The amusement park company is defending its policy, citing safety concerns.

"I thought it was ridiculous because we had gone before," said Fatimah Zanana, an alleged victim of discrimination.

Zanana says she and her friends were embarrassed and upset when they were turned away, told they weren't allowed on the go-kart ride at the Boomers! park in Irvine because of their hajibs, or head scarves, which Fatimah wears because she is Muslim.

"I thought they were discriminating us and hating on us because we were Muslim," said Zanana.

Zanana is apparently not alone. Lawyers with the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR) say they've received seven official complaints of discrimination from Muslim and Sikh park-goers who were denied access to the go-kart ride for the same reason at Boomers parks in Northern California and San Diego.

"Some people waited in line for over a half-hour with a big group of children in the heat, only to be told that they weren't allowed to go on the go-kart, and not having any notice prior to that," said Sammar Miqbel, CAIR-LA civil rights coordinator.

Miqbel says after reaching out to Boomers' parent company, Palace Entertainment, with proposals to accommodate riders with religious head-scarves, and getting nowhere, CAIR and United Sikhs have now filed a complaint with the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing, hoping the agency will investigate and take action against Boomers.

"If Boomers tried in good faith to explore these other accommodation options that they too would be able to find something that will both address their safety concerns and allow for this group of people to have equal access to the facility," said Miqbel.

Tuesday afternoon, Palace Entertainment spokesperson Michele Wischmeyer released a statement: "Safety is our number one priority. This is not a matter of race or religion. This is a matter of safety."

Wischmeyer explained head-scarves, hats and anything else, including long hair, that could get caught in the go karts' engines pose a danger to riders.

CAIR and United Sikhs say they are not ruling out a lawsuit against Boomers just yet, but will wait to hear from the state Department of Fair Employment and Housing before moving forward. As for Boomers, the company says it has no intention of changing its policy.


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