“ Swimming while Black or Muslim is not grounds to eject children from a public pool.”
Washington, DC – Following the removal of several children, most of them African American, from a public pool in Wilmington, Delaware, Muslim Advocates sent a cease and desist letter calling for an immediate end to the staff’s hostility and discrimination. The letter highlights the true issue at hand: the pool staff has cited “safety concerns” as a pretext to justify its racially charged and bigoted behavior.
For years, Wilmington native Tahsiyn Ismaa’eel has been taking campers from her Muslim youth enrichment program, Darul Amaanah Academy, to Foster Brown to cool down on hot summer days. In accordance with their religious beliefs, some of the children in the camp wear clothing in the swimming pool to avoid exposing certain parts of their bodies. This year, pool management and staff have repeatedly discriminated against the children, pressuring them to leave the pool by citing an unwritten and vague rule about the use of cotton clothing in pools. Such incidents have occurred multiple times over the span of several weeks, yet despite repeated complaints by Ms. Ismaa’eel to management and the city, nothing has happened.
“There is a long and sordid history in this country of people of color–particularly African Americans–facing discrimination at the swimming pool. Swimming while Black or Muslim is not grounds to eject children from a public pool. Under the guise of ‘safety’ concerns, the pool staff has repeatedly kept children – some of them as young as preschoolers – from enjoying the pool with their friends. Wilmington’s African-Americans and Muslims deserve better,” said Juvaria Khan, staff attorney at Muslim Advocates. “The behavior of the pool staff is unacceptable, and despite repeated complaints from Darul Amaanah Academy, this gross mistreatment continues. An empty apology from the mayor is not enough if it’s not backed with action. The city has a legal and moral obligation to ensure that everyone in its community is welcome at the pool, regardless of their race, religious beliefs, or ability to afford certain swimming wear. We call on the city to act immediately.”
In all the years that Ms. Ismaa’eel has been going to the Foster Brown pool, this non-existent “no-cotton” rule has never been mentioned, let alone enforced. The staff has even gone so far as to call the police to pressure the children to leave the pool.
A recently reported apology that the mayor has made is not adequate to address these longstanding problems. That’s why the cease and desist letter calls for the city to conduct a an immediate and thorough investigation into this matter, to enact policies and training procedures for staff that address this discrimination problem, and for the staff and city to meaningfully remedy this situation with the victims.
Muslim Advocates is a national legal advocacy and educational organization that works on the frontlines of civil rights to guarantee freedom and justice for Americans of all faiths.