Bus driver Gene Bandlow says he was just following policy when he asked a woman with an Islamic veil to step off his bus last July. He didn't believe passenger Tasha Douglas was a terrorist, nor did he intend to discriminate against her religion, said Bandlow, who has been driving a city bus for 6 1/2 years.
"I'm not an idiot," said Bandlow. He said he decided to come forward after letters to the editor in the Grand Rapids Press suggested he believed Douglas was a terrorist.
"I didn't see her as a security risk, it was just a policy I had to enforce," said Bandlow, who compared the transit system's then-rule against passengers having their faces covered to its rule against eating on the bus.
Bandlow, 37, said he would not have told her she could not wear the veil had he known she was wearing it for religious reasons. Since September, attorneys from the American Civil Liberties Union, working on Douglas' behalf, have been in talks with transit officials about the incident.
Douglas' lawyer, Miriam Aukerman, said she finds it hard to believe Bandlow did not recognize Douglas' garb as being religious. "If that's the case, I think it points to the need for diversity training within" (the transit system), she said. "That's a fairly common form of dress among Muslims."
"Our issue is not with the driver," Aukerman said. "He's an individual who made a mistake because The Rapid as an institution had a policy that was wrong." [Link]
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