MINNEAPOLIS (Nov. 19, 2013) — The Minnesota chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR-MN) today announced that it has filed charges of discrimination with the Minnesota Department of Human Rights on behalf of Rania Elsweisy, a Muslim woman who was physically escorted out of a public event in Chisholm, Minnesota because of her religion.
On Sept. 28, 2013, Elsweisy, who wears the religious headscarf, was physically escorted out of the Annual Hibbing Area Women’s Retreat at the request of event speaker, Cynthia Khan. Khan is the Director of the Human Care and Community Development at People of the Book Ministries.
Elsweisy was initially welcomed to the event by organizers. Prior to her arrival, she called a phone number listed as a contact for the Annual Hibbing Area Women’s Retreat informing them that she was driving to the event from Minneapolis. She was given directions and told that event organizers looked forward to her arrival.
Elsweisy completed the registration, paid the entrance fee and was given a nametag. As she was entering the auditorium, Khan approached event volunteers and asked that they remove the Muslim woman from the premises. When Elsweisy explained that she was only there to listen and would not interrupt the speech or disrupt the event, Khan said she did not want a Muslim in the audience. Khan told her that videos and materials “offensive” to Muslims will be shown and distributed during her talk.
Despite her objections to the unfair treatment due to her religion, Elsweisy was physically escorted outside by event volunteers.
The Minnesota Human Rights Act, Section 363A.02 states that it is the “public policy of this state to secure for persons in this state, freedom from discrimination: (3) in public accommodations because of race, color, creed, religion . . .”
“The retreat organizers engaged in discrimination when they denied a Muslim woman from participating in the event, while opening it up to the rest of the public,” said CAIR-MN Executive Director Lori Saroya.
Saroya noted that the event was promoted as a public event, including a feature article in the Hibbing Daily Tribune and community calendar postings, stating: “All area women are invited.”
Elsweisy had not previously attended the Annual Hibbing Area Women’s Retreat nor did she have any interaction with Ms. Khan or her organization prior to Sept. 28, 2013.
“The only reason I was kicked out of the event was because of my religion, Islam,” said Elsweisy. “It is truly hurtful to be treated like you are lesser than somebody or that you don’t qualify to be talked to and treated equally as others.”
CAIR is America’s largest Muslim civil liberties and advocacy organization. Its mission is to enhance the understanding of Islam, encourage dialogue, protect civil liberties, empower American Muslims, and build coalitions that promote justice and mutual understanding.