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Monday, October 29, 2007

Muslim woman claims discrimination at Union Bank

A Lompoc resident says she's the victim of discrimination.

The Muslim woman, wearing a traditional head scarf, says she wanted into Union Bank in Lompoc, trying to open a new account. But a bank representative and the manager said no.

Fatiha Harit was born and raised in Morocco but has lived in Lompoc for several years. Now, an incident that started about a week and a half ago has left her hurt, confused, and searching for the reason why.

"It makes me feel I want to go back to my country," Harit said.

Anger and humiliation.

Fatiha Harit tried to open an account at Union Bank in Lompoc. Instead, she said an employee and a manager told her she can't-her home country of Morocco is on a terror list, at high risk for money laundering.

"I told her that's ridiculous, because that's not true," Harit said. "I know a friend of mine, she just opened an account two weeks ago with them. Why didn't they say anything to her because I'm wearing a hejab? Maybe that's why."

Fatiha always wears the hejab as part of her Muslim religion.

The branch's vice president later apologized saying it was a mistake.

"There's several steps that a branch takes and the branch did not go through the necessary steps," said Union Bank spokeswoman, Sharon Woodson-Bryant.

The two Lompoc employees were counseled about the incident, but Fatiha says it is not enough.

"I want them to fire those two people, this is what I want. It's the only thing that can make me feel better," Harit said.

A seven year resident of the Central Coast, Fatiha says she tired of the stereotypes.

"Please stop calling terrorism of the Muslim people. We are not bad people," Harit said.

It is a negative experience that has changed her forever.

Fatiha is working to become a U.S. citizen. Despite the proper documents, the bank still refused.

She and her husband then went to a Santa Maria branch of Union Bank and opened an account without any problems.

Fatiha chose to stay with Union Bank because that is where her employer does their banking. A bank spokesperson says they deeply regret what happened. [Link]

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