When a Muslim woman and her husband headed to a Missouri gun range, they were shocked to hear that they would be denied service at the facility because she refused to comply with the dress code. Now, the couple is demanding a federal investigation into the shooting range for violating her civil rights.
Along with her husband, Rania Barakat headed to Frontier Justice, a popular gun range in Lee’s Summit, for a bit of leisure target practice. Allegedly, the couple had been there multiple times and enjoyed the experience so much that they were willing to wait over an hour to fire off some rounds.
Upon making it to the counter, Barakat was stopped by the cashier, who informed the pair that they weren’t allowed access to the range unless they complied with the strict dress code. Unfortunately, following the rules would mean that the devout Muslim woman would have to violate her religious compulsions.
According to The Kansas City Star, the Frontier Justice employee told Barakat that she must remove her hijab before entering the range as the dress code prohibit head covering. When Barakat protested, the manager was called over to explain that it was against safety regulations to allow her to wear the scarf while taking part in target practice.
“He wanted to take me there for a fun experience, instead we experienced racism and discrimination,” she said. “We were kinda both confused and honestly really shocked to hear this.”
The employee showed Barakat the dress code policy on the computer, which stated that hats, caps, bandanas, or any other head covering will be removed in the facility, except baseball caps facing forward.” When Barakat insisted that she should be exempt, the manager explained that they were concerned with her catching a hot metal casing within the folds of her loose hijab, which may burn the wearer and cause them to make a sudden involuntary movement.
“We cannot have a head covering on the range that could potentially catch brass and cause an adverse and unsafe movement of a person holding a firearm,” the company said. “There are hundreds of videos of persons on a range that have brass hit their skin, who then flinch and have killed bystanders because of the uncontrolled action in response to the hot brass. It doesn’t matter if it’s a hoodie or a head scarf, potential hazard is there and as a business catering to the public, we cannot assume this risk.”
Unwilling to compromise her faith, Barakat and her husband left the range. However, they didn’t head to another business that would accommodate their preferences. Instead, they contacted the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), which would gladly take legal action on their behalf.
“Clearly they were not going to let us shoot and I didn’t want to waste any more time,” Barakat said. “To have this happen to me personally was very sad and frustrating and I would never want anyone to go through what I went through,” she said. “It saddens me that this is America. That this is the norm. And we must change that. It is unacceptable.”
CAIR National staff attorney Zanah Ghalawanji equated the gun range’s actions to segregation-era racism, arguing that the manager violated Barakat’s civil rights.
“We have this law because historically Black Americans were excluded from or segregated in restaurants, motels, theaters and other public places,” Ghalawanji said. “This law prevents public places from sending us back to a time in history were certain groups of people are treated as lesser and prohibits public places from discrimination and segregation.”
Moussa Elbayoumy, the board chair of CAIR’s Kansas chapter, not only accused the local communities of xenophobia and Islamophobia but also claimed that the gun range is merely using safety as an excuse to discriminate against Muslims.
“It’s meant to exclude Muslim women and other Muslims from exercising their rightful rights and legal rights,” Elbayoumy said.
Frontier Justice has denied accusations of racism and discrimination. Company president Bren Brown reiterated that everyone is welcome at the range as long as they follow protocol.
“It saddens us that anyone would say we are not inclusive, given that we serve all races and religions every single day in all of our stores,” Brown said in a written statement. “ We pride ourselves on this fact, and we strongly believe in America and the second amendment that is for every single American. Period.”
CAIR requested an investigation of the gun range for a potential civil rights violation. Although Barakat and CAIR relentlessly smeared the employees of Frontier Justice as racist, the business rejected this allegation and will continue to fight it.
Sadly, even the accusation of racism can easily destroy a successful business, end people’s livelihoods, and ruin good reputations. Unfortunately, gone are the days when people would refrain from attributing maliciousness to their neighbors for every inconvenience.