PUBLISHED: 01:17 EST, 23 May 2012 | UPDATED: 01:17 EST, 23 May 2012
A New Jersey woman was told to get out of a popular shopping mall on Saturday because she was wearing a traditional Muslim face covering.
Wakeelah Salaam lodged a complaint with Bridgewater Commons Mall after a security guard approached her twice demanding she remove the veil, known as a niqab, worn by some Muslim women.
‘He said, ‘ma’am, I’m telling you, you cannot wear that mask in here. He came as close to me as though he was going to kiss me, and then he made the hand gesture like he was going to lift it up for me,’ Ms Salaam told WABC News.
Outraged: Wakeelah Salaam, pictured, lodged a complaint with Bridgewater Commons Mall after a security guard approached her twice demanding she remove her niqab
Ms Salaam was born in the United States, and was raised Muslim.
She has always worn a long dress, or hijab, and a headscarf. But when she was in her mid-20s, she decided to start wearing the niqab that shows only her eyes when she’s in public.
Some women choose to wear the scarf so men don’t judge them by their appearance.
‘This is a protection for me,’ Ms Salaam told WABC. ‘This is my honor’.
Sorry: The mall apologised adding that its security guard had received cultural diversity training
She said she had worn the niqab in court and even to visit a relative in prison so was shocked when she was refused entry to the mall, especially as she had shopped there before without any problems.
She eventually called police and left the shopping centre.
‘I felt threatened, like I couldn’t walk and shop in the mall without this man asking me to take off my niqab,’ she said.
An executive with the company that runs security at Bridgewater Commons later called Ms Salaam to apologise.
Refused: A security guard approached Wakeelah Salaam twice at Bridgewater Commons Mall, pictured, demanding she remove her head scarf
‘Our security guard has received additional training in cultural diversity,’ said Donald Lantz. ‘We respect her right to dress according to her religious beliefs and she is welcome in our mall anytime.’
Face veils and burqas have sparked controversy in a number of Western nations, with France and Belgium banning them in public spaces.
A burqa differs from a niqab in that it conceals a woman’s entire body and face, covered the eyes with a mesh screen.