Woman initially denied right to take civics test because of religious clothing

A Muslim woman said she was not allowed to take a test on Wednesday at United Migrant Opportunity Services in Milwaukee that she needs for her GED because of her religious clothing.

She was wearing a floor-length garment made of heavy material for winter.

In public, many Muslim women wear hijabs that cover their hair and neck and dresses that cover all of their skin and don’t reveal their body’s shape.

“I come out, and I see her sitting and literally about to cry and her hands are shaking. And I’m like, ‘What?’ And she said, ‘I can’t take the test because of my religion,'” said the woman’s sister, Amel, who did not want her last name identified.

Amel was waiting for her sister to take a civics test at UMOS Wednesday

“I’m like, ‘What is my sister saying? She’s (a UMOS staff member) like, ‘Well, I told her she has to take off her coat.’ I was like, ‘But this is her religious attire. It’s called an abaya,’” Amel said.

Amel said a UMOS staff member asked her sister to open her abaya to prove it wasn’t covering other clothing, but showing the body goes against conservative Islamic ideas of modestly.

“She had asked her (the staff member), ‘Why am I not allowed to take the civics exam?’ And she (asked) her, ‘Is it because of my religion?’ And she replied, ‘Yes,'” Amel said.

UMOS said rules set by the test provider prohibit test-takers from wearing coats during their exams, with no rule addressing religious clothing.

When UMOS staff sent a photo to the testing company for review, they immediately approved it.

Still, a spokesman told WISN 12 News their staff handled the situation poorly.

“I want to officially apologize on behalf of UMOS in the way this situation was handled, and I can assure you it will not happen again,” said Rod Ritcherson, special assistant to the CEO for UMOS.

Amel said her sister aced the test, but she wants an apology from the UMOS staff member who denied her sister in the first place.

A UMOS human resources staff member will be calling the Muslim woman Thursday.

They’re also sitting down with the staff member to review what happened, but Ritcherson did not have any information on possible consequences for the staff member.

Chris Watkins

Chris Watkins

Social Media & Digital Content Manager

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