Australian woman says she was denied entry into hotel bar for wearing hijab

Soaliha Iqbal

A Muslim woman in Australia has said she was refused entry into a hotel bar unless she removed her hijab.

Soaliha Iqbal was queuing with friends outside a popular Sydney bar at the Paragon Hotel, when she was asked to take off her hijab by a member of the door staff.

She told her story in her blog 5Why and said she had been left feeling “humiliated and outraged, discriminated against and worthless.”

“Chatting and laughing with my mates in line, I broke off mid-conversation to hand my ID to Paragon’s bouncer – but he didn’t ask for it or take it. Instead, he pointed to my hijab and said “take it off,” she wrote.

“I froze, and just stared at him in shock. When I didn’t respond, he repeated himself, louder and more aggressively. ‘What is that? Take it off.’

“His threatening demeanour kicked me back into reality, my face burned with humiliation and rage. Seething, and on the cusp of tears, I could only respond with a shaky ‘Are you serious? This is my hijab.’

“When I didn’t comply to his demands, he told me to ‘stand aside’ and did not admit me into the premises, or even bother looking at my ID – despite the later claim that he asked me to take off my hijab for ID purposes.

“Of course, everyone around us was appalled with what had just happened, and started making calls of racism and bad behaviour. Instead of apologising, the bouncer told me I was the problem for overreacting to a simple request. ‘You need to calm down. You’re overreacting. I just asked a question.’

The Paragon Hotel bar

“This is the response I received when I asked him if he was serious, despite being asked just moments ago to remove my hijab.

“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 ‘overreaction.’

“Honestly? I didn’t know what to do. I managed to choke out a strangled ‘f*** you’ before walking away in tears, because I felt so helpless.”

Iqbal said that to add insult to injury a policeman told her that being within 50m of the entrance of a bar that has denied you entry is a legal offence under Australia’s Liquor Act, so she should move on.

“He tried to intimidate us into moving, she wrote. “And he continued to tell me that what had happened to me was not discrimination, and went as far as to say the situation was ‘debatable.’

“Ignoring our questions around why he didn’t reprimand Paragon’s bouncer instead of me, he again advised us to move along and told me that the discrimination act was a ‘grey area,’ refusing to believe that I had been discriminated against.”

Craig Wesker, the group operations manager for Ryan’s Hotel Group who own the Paragon, issued an apology to Ms Iqbal via her Facebook page.

He said the doorman was working his first shift and in a bid to “impress the venue management with his professionalism and attention to detail in carrying out his duties and responsibilities diligently,” he had mistaken her hijab as a non-religious head covering.

Mr Wesker said Ms Iqbal had incorrectly misinterpreted the situation and that she was not refused entry for refusing to remove her hijab. He “unreservedly” apologised for the mistake of the bouncer and the offence caused.

Since this story broke Iqbal has complained that the media incorrectly claimed she had been denied entry into a “nightclub” which has “caused hate to triple as the halal police/trolls have come into my inbox saying all kinds of things including telling me to die.”

She added: “If you are a Muslim judging this situation and sending hate messages to me, go and read the line about Prophet Muhammad saying you should always make excuses for your brothers and sisters, and then re-evaulate how he would respond if he could see what you are saying too me. Absolutely shameful behaviour by the Ummah.”

In her blog post she also specified that she does not drink alcohol.

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