A Muslim family claim they were banned from visiting a newborn baby in hospital because staff told them they looked ‘scary’.
The Zahr family said they were mortified after being told they would be kicked out of the hospital if they didn’t leave, before security staff eventually resorted to calling the police.
They had arrived towards the end of visiting hours at the Inova Fair Oaks Hospital in Fairfax, Virginia.
But when they got to the labour ward, they were confronted by a security guard, according to Arwa Zahr, the baby’s aunt.
She was with her mother and father – the baby’s grandparents – at the time, and both women were wearing the niqab, which covers the neck and face.
The family claim that this is reason they were not allowed to see the baby.
“He screams at me and he tell us, ‘You are not allowed to be here’ and then said ‘You know, you look scary,” Arwa Zahr told NBC 4.
The Zahrs say they were ordered back to the waiting room.
But when the baby’s father, Ahmed Zahr, found out what had happened, he confronted the security guard and told him he was disrespectful.
The guard then summoned the shift supervisor.
“We tried to explain to [the supervisor] our side of the story,” Ahmed said.
“He [the supervisor] looked at my mother as she was trying to explain what happened, and he told her, ‘Close your mouth or I’ll kick you out.’
“He’s telling them, ‘Nobody wants you here. The nurses don’t want you. The doctors don’t want you here’.”
As Ahmed continued to defend his family, he claims the supervisor called the police.
The family then spoke with officers before leaving the hospital without seeing the baby girl. They registered a complaint immediately afterwards.
Ahmed Zahr says he has never experienced abuse like it before, and says it is even more hurtful because the baby’s grandparents, Dr Nabil Zahr and Karima Zohdi were volunteer chaplains at neighbouring hospital with strong links to Inova Fair Oaks.
In a statement to US media, the hospital said: “Inova respects and values our diverse patient community and believes that all patients have the right to a respectful, safe environment, free from all forms of discrimination.
“We hold our team members and contractors to the highest ethical standards, supported by a strict zero-tolerance policy against discrimination of any kind.
“We are reviewing the family’s concerns and we continue to look for opportunities to better manage these situations in the future.
“Inova’s senior leadership values our longstanding relationship with the family and has extended an invitation to meet in person.”
The family say they are not interested in a meeting until the hospital gives them an update of what action has been taken and whether an investigation has been conducted into the incident.