A 20-year-old Muslim mother got a harrowing experience while she was with her two-month-old baby when the driver of the bus she rode insinuated that she might be a terrorist and for her to remove her niqab so that he could see her face.
There are several types of veils among Muslim women and the niqab refers to a veil that covers the whole head and face except for the eyes.
The woman, who wishes to remain unidentified, said the incident happened on a number 24 bus from Easton into Bristol City center last July 1.
According to her, she got on the First Bus but had barely gotten her ticket when the driver started ranting about her veil and kept going about how “the world is dangerous” and that it was “not good” that he couldn’t see her face. In short, he was implying that she could be a terrorist who could blow up the bus.
The incident left her humiliated and disappointed.
The woman said: “He said I was scary and I was dangerous, and he kept talking about it during the journey. He was insinuating I was going to bomb the bus.
“How is that possible, when I’ve got a baby with me? I get that he might not be from the country, so maybe he has never seen a person with a face veil.
“But for him to treat me like that in a public place is wrong. I had my baby with me. I’ve been humiliated in public, and I’m disappointed. It’s 2018, we shouldn’t be like that. I’m being stereotyped.”
Another Muslim woman who was wearing a hijab, which leaves the face exposed, came to the defense of the young mother.
“I don’t understand why you care how she’s dressed. It’s her choice what she wears,” she said.
But the driver replied, “I care because this world is dangerous. If you don’t see somebody’s face, that’s not good. In this time we live… we should see our faces.”
The victim went on: “He said he couldn’t see my face, and that he didn’t know what I was ‘capable of doing.’
“He continued to insult me, and he made me out to be a terrorist, and kept saying everyone should see each other’s faces. He asked why I was wearing a balaclava.
“I have been humiliated and he insulted my religion, and in front of my new-born baby.”
When the woman got off at her stop at Haymarket, the driver also got off to talk with his supervisor. He insisted that he didn’t do anything wrong, saying, “It’s nothing about racism here… This world, in this time, you don’t understand?”
A video showing the confrontation has surfaced and First Bus quickly apologized for the incident. In a statement, the company said: “We would like to fully and unreservedly apologise to the customer for the distress caused when one of our drivers expressed his personal opinions.
“The driver behaved in an offensive fashion that in no way reflects our deeply held values as an inclusive company which welcomes all people, irrespective of background, race, nationality or religion as customers or employees.
“We have reminded staff of our expectations and behaviours that are demanded of them. The driver has been censured through the company’s disciplinary procedures for this incident, which is a matter the company takes very seriously.
“We’ve also helped the police with their enquiries and we are arranging a meeting with the customer to apologise in person and discuss matters in more detail.”
The Avon and Somerset Police also came out with a statement: “We are investigating a report of a hate crime that occurred on a number 24 bus in Bristol on July 1 at about 12.40pm.
“Enquiries are ongoing. Anyone who witnessed the incident should call 101 and quote reference 5218145369.”
The incident comes just after ex-foreign secretary Boris Johnson said that women wearing face-veils “look like letterboxes.”
While there have been appeals for Johnson to apologized, the 54-year-old former Cabinet minister remains unrepentant.
An investigation is underway that could lead to Johnson’s expulsion from the Tories but there are concerns that such a move could ignite in-fighting within the party where most members see him as the best candidate to succeed Prime Minister Theresa May as the leader.