CAIRO - A Muslim teenager in Australia's second-largest state of Queensland is complaining of being denied service and locked at a service station because of her face-veil (niqab).
It's so horrific, teenager Hafsah Negussie told Courier Mail on Monday, April 29.
"I'm Australian, I was born and raised here, I know my rights.
The case goes back to December last year when Negussie, who dons Islamic face-veil, tried to pay for her goods at a Brisbane service station after a worker refused to serve her.
She also complained that the doors were locked by the attendant when she attempted to leave.
The incident was reported to police but no official report was filed until the Muslim teenager came forward again in April.
A company spokesman for BP service stations said the business required customers to remove helmets, hoodies or large hats before approaching the counter.
He, however, said that the policy did not extend to religious headwear, admitting that the attendant involved had misunderstood business requirements.
"This was regrettable and we wish to apologize most sincerely for this lapse, he said.
"We are also reminding all our service station staff of our company's approach to religious headgear.
Yet, he rejected the Muslim teenager's claim that she was locked in the service station.
"The customer could have left the store at any time of her choosing and there is no evidence to support the suggestion that the she was restrained or held in the store against her will," he said.
While hijab is an obligatory code of dress for Muslim women, the majority of Muslim scholars agree that a woman is not obliged to wear the face veil, or niqab, but believe that it is up to women to decide whether to cover her face.
In 2011, New South Wales passed legislation requiring the removal of face veils for the purposes of legal identification, but Queensland has not sought similar powers.
Police said they will review why the Muslim teenager did not file a complaint when the incident happened in December.
"The version of the attendant's (story) doesn't match the version of the victim's," Detective Inspector Rod Kemp said.
"And because it was back on the first of December there's no CCTV, there's no independent witnesses to it.
"The consul operator says at no time did she restrain the person or hold her against her will and she's saying it was a dispute over payment.''
He said Queensland police had the power to search a person provided they believed an offence had been committed.
Senior-Sergeant Michael Maat from the Strategic and Cultural Policy unit said police searches were conducted sensitively with respect for a person's religious beliefs.
"If we need to remove an item of clothing that has religious significance then we treat the removal of that clothing in the same way as an intimate search conducted by a same-sex officer in a private room, he said.
"We've never had an issue where someone has refused to take off their veil and if someone is wearing something that covers their hair and ears it's not an issue.
Complaining of police disregard of her case, Negussie took her complaint to the Queensland Anti-Discrimination Commission.
(We believe) she was deprived of her liberty and is quite traumatized by this incident and BP's denial of the incident is not helping the matter, human rights lawyer Sabrina Khan Ismail said.
Muslims, who have been in Australia for more than 200 years, make up 1.7 percent of its 20-million population.
Islam is the country's second largest religion after Christianity.In post 9/11-era, Australian Muslims have been haunted with suspicion and have had their patriotism questioned.
Reproduced with permission from OnIslam.net