Paragon is a bar/restaurant/pub/whatever in Circular Quay, Sydney, and it was a pretty convenient option for me and my friends to head to after our climate protest in the city on Friday 25 October. If I had actually made it inside. Instead, the place left me feeling humiliated and outraged, discriminated against and worthless – without even taking responsibility for it.
Paragon’s Bouncer Told Me To Take Off My Hijab
Chatting and laughing with my mates in line, I broke off mid-conversation to hand my ID to Paragon’s bouncer – but he didn’t ask for it or take it. Instead, he pointed to my hijab and said “take it off.”
I froze, and just stared at him in shock. When I didn’t respond, he repeated himself, louder and more aggressively.
“What is that? Take it off.”
His threatening demeanour kicked me back into reality, my face burned with humiliation and rage. Seething, and on the cusp of tears, I could only respond with a shaky “Are you serious? This is my hijab.”
When I didn’t comply to his demands, he told me to “stand aside” and did not admit me into the premises, or even bother looking at my ID – despite the later claim that he asked me to take off my hijab for ID purposes.
Of course, everyone around us was appalled with what had just happened, and started making calls of racism and bad behaviour. Instead of apologising, the bouncer told me I was the problem for overreacting to a simple request.
“You need to calm down. You’re overreacting. I just asked a question.”
This is the response I received when I asked him if he was serious, despite being asked just moments ago to remove my hijab.
I was humiliated, I felt violated, and more than that – now I was being gaslit to convince me that my response to the violation of my basic rights was an “overreaction.”
Honestly? I didn’t know what to do. I managed to choke out a strangled “fuck you” before walking away in tears, because I felt so helpless.
The Police Arrived And Also Blamed Me For The Incident
The gaslighting I was subjected to is reminiscent of the victim blaming women go through everyday. It’s funny how it’s more offensive to tell a man his behaviour is inappropriate, than for a man to behave inappropriately.
A police officer that had remained after the protest interrupted our huddle to see what was going on, and in response to what Paragon did, he told us that being within 50m of the entrance of a bar that has denied you entry is a legal offence under the liquor act, and that we better move on.
He tried to intimidate us into moving, and he continued to tell me that what had happened to me was not discrimination, and went as far as to say the situation was “debatable.”
Ignoring our questions around why he didn’t reprimand Paragon’s bouncer instead of me, he again advised us to move along and told me that the discrimination act was a “grey area”, refusing to believe that I had been discriminated against.
Of course, this just pissed me off further. I was told to calm down by another police officer, Sargent James, who said he understands discrimination because he’s Catholic. As if a white catholic man, who is also a lawyer and a cop, has any fucking semblance of an experience that even somewhat relates to me, a brown Muslim woman in Australia.
He then proceeded to tell me that it’s a completely reasonable request to make when needing to identify someone. Never mind that the bouncer had actually made no attempt to ID me – he never asked for ID card, or asked to see it, or even mentioned ID when he told me to take my hijab off.
I was asked about why I had walked away, why I had swore at the bouncer, why I didn’t work it out calmly and discuss the situation at hand with him in a civilised manner. As if it was my responsibility to rectify the mistakes of Paragon’s establishment.
At every turn was another question on how I could have handled the situation better, more maturely.
The victim-blaming was on full blast. At no point did he enquire on why a man would even ask me to remove my hijab. It seems that wasn’t as important as my anger in response to it.
If police incompetence in this situation was not clear enough, Sgt James then called back up, and 13 police officers arrived. Just to deal with one girl who was told to take her hijab off.
Paragon Management Arrived And Told Me Both Parties Were At Fault
The bouncer’s co-worker, who did not witness the event, insisted that his mate would never do such a thing, and that clearly it was a miscommunication and I had overreacted. He can be heard in the video below that “both parties are at fault.” I’m still yet to find out what exactly I have done to warrant blame in this situation.
Can someone please, for the love of GOD, tell me what the fuck else someone could mean by telling me to remove my hijab? In what way could that have been misinterpreted by me? It was a very literal command. And there were multiple witnesses, all vouching for me.
And also, why would Sgt James believe the word of a white man who wasn’t even there during the incident over mine and several witnesses?
On top of all this, Paragon’s manager refused to apologise to me and defended the bouncer’s actions. He told me that I had misunderstood the situation, and then overreacted. Was an actual explanation ever given to explain what exactly I had misunderstood? Of course not. It was purely an exercise to shut down me down.
Whether Or Not Paragon Thinks It Was Racist, They Should Have Apologised
Never, in my whole life, have I been treated so badly by an establishment. Most bouncers see my hijab and are happy to let me in, because they know that I don’t drink, so I won’t be causing any problems. I usually end up chatting to the Muslim ones, and we have a nice moment of feeling like there’s a community of us out there. Instead, in the video below, management can be seen refusing to comment on if Paragon has anti-hijab policies.
This situation had none of that, and it was just a brazen and open attempt to bully someone that was vulnerable. Even if the bouncer, in some bizarre way, was not trying to be offensive when he told me to remove the hijab – why did he refuse to apologise, why did his co worker refuse to apologise, and why did his management refuse to apologise?
Surely, if it was just a misunderstanding, management would be tripping over themselves to apologise? Is it really worth the PR nightmare that could ensue? Apparently not, because as you can see in the pretty damning video below, Paragon’s management refused to acknowledge that it was wrong to ask me to take my hijab off.
Paragon Responded To My Facebook Post, And It’s Not A Real Apology
In the same breath of apologising, Paragon referred to their bouncer as “diligent” and my response as “incorrect.” Right till the end, they will go down defending a man who told a Muslim girl to take her hijab off, rather than just admitting that he was wrong in doing so. Strange hill to die on, but go off I guess.
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