A Muslim family have said that they were prevented by hospital staff from visiting a new-born baby because they looked “scary”.
The Zahr family were shocked after they were told they would be escorted out of the hospital if they did not leave, before security staff eventually called the police.
They family had arrived during just as visiting hours were ending at the Inova Fair Oaks Hospital in Fairfax, Virginia.
However, when they got to the labour ward, they were met with a security guard, according to the baby’s aunt, Arwa Zahr.
She was with her parents – the baby’s grandparents, and both women were wearing the niqab.
The family have said that they believe the niqab was the reason they were not allowed to see the baby
Ms Zahr told NBC 4: “He screams at me and he tell us, ‘You are not allowed to be here’ and then said ‘You know, you look scary.”
The family said they were told to go back to the waiting room.
But when Ahmed Zahr, the baby’s father, found out what had happened, he addressed the security guard and told his comments and behaviour were disrespectful.
The guard then called the shift supervisor.
Mr Zahr said: “We tried to explain to the supervisor our side of the story.
“He [the supervisor] looked at my mother as she was trying to explain what happened, and he told her, ‘Close your mouth or I’ll kick you out.’
“He’s telling them, ‘Nobody wants you here. The nurses don’t want you. The doctors don’t want you here’.”
Whilst Mr Zahr continued to defend his family, he said the supervisor called the police.
The family spoke with the police officers before leaving the hospital without seeing the baby girl.
They immediately filed a complaint to the hospital about the incident.
Mr Zahr said that they family has never experienced abuse and disrespect like this incident before, and says it is further hurtful because the baby’s grandparents, Dr Nabil Zahr and Karima Zohdi were volunteer chaplains at a neighbouring hospital with strong links to Inova Fair Oaks.
In a statement to American press, the hospital said: “Inova respects and values our diverse patient community and believes that all patients have the right to a respectful, safe environment, free from all forms of discrimination.
“We hold our team members and contractors to the highest ethical standards, supported by a strict zero-tolerance policy against discrimination of any kind.
“We are reviewing the family’s concerns and we continue to look for opportunities to better manage these situations in the future.
“Inova’s senior leadership values our longstanding relationship with the family and has extended an invitation to meet in person.”
The Zahr family say they do not want a meeting until Inova Fair Oaks Hospital provides them with an explanation of what action has been taken and whether an investigation has been launched into the incident.