Communication was cordial Thursday as bankers and Muslims worked together to ensure both bank security and freedom of religious expression.
The issue surfaced when a Muslim woman from Kiefer complained to the Oklahoma Council for American-Islamic Relations that the Valley National Bank branch at 4812 E. 81st St. had discriminated against her for wearing a hijab, a religiously mandated head covering.
The woman, who declined to talk to the media, told CAIR that she was not allowed to enter the bank without a security guard because of a policy banning hats, sunglasses and hoods.
A second Muslim woman who says she had problems with the bank while wearing a head covering came forward Thursday after reading news accounts of the other incident.
Allison Moore, who has been a spokeswoman for the Islamic Society of Tulsa for years, told the Tulsa World on Thursday that about two years ago she was asked not to enter the bank lobby because her head was covered.
Since then, she said, she has used the drive-through “so as not to make anybody feel uncomfortable.”
Moore said she discussed the issue Thursday with Valley National Bank President Brad Scrivner.
“I thought it was awesome. He had a great attitude,” she said. “He was totally proactive.”
She said the two have arranged to meet over lunch next Thursday to further discuss the issue.
Scrivner said he met with bank employees Thursday to make sure everyone understood the bank’s policy and to make sure all customers are treated with courtesy and respect.
He said he thought the bank’s policy offers a reasonable accommodation to people who wear head coverings because of special circumstances, whether religious or due to surgery, cancer or any other reason.
“And the reasonable accommodation we have chosen is to accompany that person to the teller line,” he said.
“That continues to ensure that our primary focus is on the safety of our customers and employees.”
Incidents involving banks and Muslim women wearing head coverings apparently are rare.
“This is the first one I’ve heard about in Oklahoma,” said Roger Beverage, president of the Oklahoma Bankers Association.
He said the OBA began recommending the “no hats, hoods or sunglasses” policy about eight years ago after a rash of bank robberies, one of which resulted in the death of a Tulsa banker and severe injuries to another.
Nearly all bank robbers wear some combination of coverings, he said.
Beverage said the OBA provides signs that many banks post at their doors banning hats, hoods and sunglasses.
“Our primary concern is that bank customers and employees are safe,” he said.
Adam Soltani, executive director of CAIR-Oklahoma, said he was unaware of any other similar incidents in the state and knew of only one out-of-state incident several years ago in California.
He said CAIR will continue to discuss the issue with the bank.