The Washington Post reports today that Muslim workers at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel in Washington, DC “said they felt discriminated against after being barred over the weekend from floors where an Israeli delegation was staying.” One supervisor reportedly explained to a Muslim worker that the Israeli delegation — which included Defense Minister Ehud Barak — “don’t want no face-to-face with Muslims.” The hotel’s general manager said she told some employees not to come in after the State Department had found “irregularities” in routine background checks on them before the Israeli visit. Yet one worker, who was teased by colleagues as a terrorist after the incident, said he’d worked with other VIPs before with no concern:
“In the cafeteria, they were looking at me, laughing, saying: ‘Ah, they don’t want you there. They maybe think you have a bomb in your belly,’” said the worker, who came to the United States from Africa more than two decades ago.
He said he had worked in proximity to other VIPs, such as George W. Bush, with no security concerns.
“I don’t care about Israel. To me, it’s just another country,” he said. “I work for [the hotel] 12, 14 hours a day, and they profile me like I’m a criminal, like I’m going to harm them. I’m like, ‘If I’m going to harm them, why would you keep me in your hotel even one day?’”
The Muslim civil rights organization Council on American-Islamic Relations is awaiting a statement from the hotel before determining whether to file a complaint. The Post notes that, in 2004 at another DC hotel, a Muslim security guard “was told to stay away from the 10th floor while an Israeli delegation was there. In that case, the hotel’s general manager said the request was made by security units guarding the delegation.”