A Sikh man reported getting a receipt with an ethnic slur while buying food Oct. 25 at the Maryland House travel plaza, along I-95 in Aberdeen, according to The Sikh Coalition civil rights group.
Parampal Singh Ghai, of Connecticut, had a traditional turban and beard when he ordered apple pie and other items at Nathan's Famous, the coalition reported.
When Ghai got his receipt, "to his horror, he saw the cashier had written his name as 'Osama' on the receipt," the coalition wrote on social media.
When he confronted the cashier about why she was calling him "Osama," she "smirked" while "another Nathan's employee and a customer laughed at Parampal, deepening his humiliation," according to a Facebook Post.
Sikhism, which originated in India during the 15th century, requires men to avoid cutting their hair, wrapping it in a turban instead. Their appearance has often made Sikhs subject to anti-Muslim hostility and violence in recent years.
The company posted the following statement on Oct. 28:
"Thank you for bringing this unacceptable incident to our attention. Nathan's Famous does not tolerate this type of behavior and we are taking steps to immediately address this with the franchisee that owns and operates the location ..."
The franchisee, Areas USA, issued the following statement:
"We at Areas USA believe that every person matters. What happened to Mr. Parampal Singh Ghai is unacceptable, and is not a reflection of our values. We spoke with him and apologized, and we have taken appropriate measures to ensure that this does not happen again."
Ghai had not been asked for his name when he ordered the food, although he noticed an employee calling other customers by name, according to the coalition.
Ghai, who returned his food, is working with a private attorney in the matter, Sikh Coalition spokesperson Mark Reading-Smith said.
The coalition is not representing him, other than posting an advisory called "Stand Up Against Dehumanizing Behavior" on its website and social media, Reading-Smith said.
The Sikh Coalition called the cashier's action "unacceptable, outrageous, offensive and discriminatory," according to its notice.
The group calls on supporters to reach out to Nathan's and ask the company to take "immediate remedial action."
"Unfortunately, Parampal's humiliating experience falls in a long line of harassment and discrimination faced by our community," the coalition wrote. "Since the 9/11 attacks,Sikh Americans, who wear religious turbans and maintain unshorn hair, have repeatedly endured bigotry and violence because of a mistaken and offensive affiliation with members of the Al Queda terrorist network."
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Maryland Transportation Authority, which contracts with Areas USA to run the Maryland House, "is committed to professional customer service," MDTA spokesperson John Sales said in a statement Thursday.