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Alleged Discrimination Rocks N.Y. Waterways

Updated 09/29/10 7:23 a.m.

NEW YORK (CBS 2) -- A New York Waterways employee has been suspended after telling two Muslim women to take off some of their religious attire.

CBS 2's Sean Hennessey spoke with one of the women who feels she was singled out because of her religion.

On the docks of the New York Waterways, intolerance and ignorance reared their ugly head.

When Huda Alasali and a friend were denied a ferry ride to Governors Island on Saturday by a crew member who took issue with their wardrobe, regulations and security were the reasons given, but they're not mentioned in any of the rules listed at the dock.

"I said to him, 'If you have a metal detector, you can check our bags. You can check us. We don't have nothing with us,'" Alasali said. "He said, 'No you cannot go on the ferry with all that clothes. Take it off.'"

"Truly I felt like, you know what? He thinks that we are terrorists."

When other passengers protested, the vessel's captain got involved, and that's when the crew member changed his story.

"He tells them that 'Oh, I didn't say that. I just wanted to know, I couldn't hear what she was saying with this,'" Alasali said.

Alasali, who was with her children, eventually did get to the island, but Muslim advocates said they aren't surprised.

"You have the gentleman who stabbed the cab driver after asking if he was Muslim. You have all these anti-Muslims, bigots that are protesting the ground zero mosque," said Linda Sarsour of the Arab American Association of New York.

Authorities have apologized to Alasali and said the "employee in question has been suspended" and is "no longer permitted on ferries servicing Governors Island."

"He said I want to apologize for what I did. I said how can we accept your apology after all the chaos you made? After making people look at us?" Alasali said.

Despite the apologies and the crew member's suspension, Alasali said that's not enough. She plans on filing a lawsuit.

"I don't want money," she said. "I'm looking for respect."

Respect and the hope this never happens again.

New York Waterways said it has transported 200 million people without ever having a complaint like this and that it has no policy concerning ethnic or religious attire.

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