A mayor in Delaware has issued an apology after a Muslim woman and her children's summer camp participants after they were asked to leave a public pool for wearing "cotton-based" religious attire. Tahsiyn A. Ismaa’eel, the facilitator of an Arabic enrichment program, accompanied her Muslim campers to the Foster Brown public pool in Wilmington, Delaware, where she was reportedly advised by the pool's manager that the cotton shirts and hijabs they wore to adhere to their religious practices were not suitable for swimming.
The initial incident at the pool took place in late June when Tahsiyn arrived at the Forest Brown public pool with her campers. According to Delaware Online, Tahsiyn was told by the pool's manager that it was against city policy to wear cotton while swimming in public pools. After informing the manager that she would pass on the message to campers parents, Tahsiyn was later approached by the police officer assigned to oversee the pool, who inquired about what time they were leaving. Tahsiyn told Delaware Online that the manager sent the police over because of apparent overcrowding in the pool. She also claimed other swimmers and another summer camp had been there for much longer but were not asked to leave.
In a statement released by the Wilmington mayor's office, Mayor Mike Purzycki apologized to Tahsiyn. “I apologize to the children who were directed to leave a city pool because of the religious-required clothing they were wearing,” Purzycki said. “We also referred to vaguely-worded pool policies to assess and then justify our poor judgment, and that was also wrong.” In the initial email statement from Purzycki's chief of staff, John Rago, he addressed the purpose of the no-cotton policy, according to Delaware Online. "Among the safety considerations is the fact that cotton becomes heavy when wet and weighs swimmers down," said Rago. "Cotton also strains the pool filtration system more than proper swimwear."
According to Delaware Online, the city's only documented public pool dress code states that bathing suits are "recommended." However, after this incident the city has announced plans to revise the signage at public pools to "more clearly communicate pool swimwear regulations," Rago said. Signs will clearly specify that "Swimmers must wear proper swimwear (swimwear composed of Nylon, Lycra, Spandex, and Polyester is permitted, but cotton and wool clothes are not permitted.)"
Even without dress codes that unfairly work against people who choose to wear hijab, Tahsiyn noted to Delaware Online that swimwear styles that cater to Muslim practices are difficult to find and can be costly making it hard for Muslim people to adhere to no-cotton dress codes like the one enforced in Wilmington.
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