No Burqa on the Bus?

Jacqueline Pasha says she was denied travel on bus because of her religious garments

By Natalie Martinez and Courtney O'Callaghan
|  Wednesday, Jan 5, 2011  |  Updated 6:33 PM CDT
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<a title=Jacqueline Pasha says she was denied travel on a Greyhound bus last month while wearing a full burqa and is looking for reimbursement from the company." />

Jacqueline Pasha says she was denied travel on a Greyhound bus last month while wearing a full burqa and is looking for reimbursement from the company.

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A Chicago woman says she was denied travel on a Greyhound bus last month while wearing a full burqa and is looking for reimbursement from the company.

Jacqueline Pasha said she's traveled by Greyhound for years and was floored when an agent wouldn't let her board an Arkansas-bound bus to visit her family for the holidays last month.

"She said, 'You look scary.  There's too much going on in the world today for you to be dressed like that.  I can't see your face,'" the 31-year-old recalled.

Pasha said she offered to show her face to any female employee in private.

"I said, 'Ma'am, I'll show you my face, no problem.'  She said, 'You might have something under there.'  I said, 'You can search me in a separate room, said recounted.

Ultimately, the newly-married woman who has been a Muslim for about five years was sent home with her tickets and a suitcase full of gifts for her three children.

Pasha and her husband were in Chicago to find a new home, and her husband was going to continue the search for the roughly two weeks that Pasha was with her family.

Since the Dec. 20 incident, the couple has racked up bills for food and hotels.  The couple wants Greyhound to reimburse them for those expenses and the unused bus ticket.

Pasha has since enlisted the help of the Chicago-based Council on American Islamic Relations, also known as CAIR.  The organization says the state protects Pasha.

"They would not, in turn, accomodate her, which they are legally obligated to do under the Illinois Human Rights Act," said CAIR spokeswoman Lindsey Stemm.  "She's taken a Greyhound multiple times and she's never had a problem before.  She's spoken with officials on the phone who told her that not only should her face veil not be a problem, that they don't even have a policy regarding face veils."

A Greyhound spokesman denies Pasha's claim.

"The customer who contacted you had a non-refundable ticket for travel on that specific day and when the customer indicated she no longer wanted to travel that day, we reissued her ticket," said Bonnie Bastian, a Greyhound manager of media relations.  "At no point did we refuse to allow her to travel on our buses."

The Department of Human Rights is investigating and is expected to return a legal opinion soon.
 

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