Seven Muslim women who were forced to leave a California restaurant in late April are suing the business, saying they were singled out because six of them were wearing headscarves at the time. The restaurant, Urth Caffe in Laguna Beach, is in an area that advocates say has seen an increase in hate crimes recently, according to The Guardian.
The restaurant, in response to questions on why the seven were removed from the premises, said that they were violating a policy that limits seating time for customers to 45 minutes — a policy generally implemented to ensure seating is available for newer customers. A video of the incident shows that open tables were available throughout the restaurant.
“I cried the whole way home,” Sara Farsakh, one of the women, told The Guardian about being asked and later forced to leave by security guards. “I was just so shocked and hurt by what happened.”
Farsakh also posted videos online of the incident and wrote a Facebook post describing how she felt.
“I am completely appalled by the racist and Islamophobic treatment some friends and I were subjected to by staff at Urth Caffe in Laguna Beach last night,” she wrote. “What began as a night out with some friends ended as a painful and embarrassing reminder of what it is like to be visibly Muslim — even in liberal California. By visibly Muslim, I mean women who wear the hijab, or headscarf.”
The restaurant posted a statement on Facebook in response to the allegations.
"Urth Caffe categorically denies any and all claims of racial or religious discrimination against Sara Farsakh," the restaurant posted. "While a full investigation is still ongoing, it appears that Ms. Farsakh and her friends violated company policies and that the staff at Urth Caffe in Laguna properly and justifiably applied company procedures."
Muslims in the United States have seen an increase in hate crimes since the terrorist attacks in San Bernardino, California, and Paris in December and November of last year, respectively. Following those attacks, there were at least 38 anti-Muslim attacks before the New Year. Those attacks have included vandalism and arson at mosques and Sikh temples, as well as the murder of a convenience store worker in Michigan and someone firing a high-powered rifle at a mosque.