Gary woman booted from Family Dollar for Muslim garb

Sarah Schulte Image
Thursday, August 4, 2016
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A woman from Gary, Ind., says she was discriminated against and kicked out of a Family Dollar store for wearing a niqab and hijab.

GARY, Indiana -- A woman from Gary, Indiana, says she was discriminated against and kicked out of a Family Dollar store for wearing a niqab and hijab, and she caught part of the exchange on video.

Emotions are still raw for Sarah Safi, 32, who is used to being stared at for wearing her religious Muslim garment. But the mother of four said she had never before experienced discrimination like she did Monday at a Family Dollar store in Gary, where she went to purchase charcoal for a family barbecue.

"I might have made it 10 steps into the store and I hear the lady behind the counter say, 'Ma'am, you need to take that off your face or you need to leave my store,'" Safi said.

At that point, Safi began to record the exchange on her cell phone. Safi, who was born and raised in Texas, moved to Gary a few years ago. She told the clerk she wears a niqab and hijab for religious purposes; the clerk, who identified herself as the manager, insisted Safi leave.

"I understand, but you have to understand too this is a high crime area and we get robbed a lot. You need to remove that from your face or remove yourself from the store," the clerk is seen saying on the video.

"I told her this country is a country of freedom of religion, freedom of speech, and I have a right to wear whatever I want," Safi said.

While her children waited in the car, the Family Dollar employee told Safi if she didn't leave the store she would call the police.

"Do I wait for the police to come and let my children see this, or do I go head and just go and let Allah handle it how he sees fit?" she said she asked herself. She left.

The worker also had parting words for her as she was on her way out.

"Have a blessed day," the employee says on the video.

"I'm really saddened. I was born here, raised here all my life and I've never been to an establishment and been treated like this," Safi said.

Safi said she had been covering her face in public for years, and the only thing she wants is for the Family Dollar employee to apologize.

"I would like to sit with her and speak to her about what I believe in, because maybe if she heard and really listened to what I believe it I would open her heart," she said.

The employee in question did not want to speak on camera. ABC7 Eyewitness News has reached out to Family Dollar for comment, but have not heard back.