The Michigan Chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), a prominent Muslim civil rights and advocacy organization, is suing the Kent County Sheriff’s Office, alleging that a Muslim woman was forced by police to remove her head covering for a mugshot.
The lawsuit alleges that Jannah Hague of Grand Rapids was made to take off her hijab following her arrest, as reported by Michigan News Connection. She was then released without charges.
According to a press release dated May 30, the photo was subsequently displayed on the sheriff’s office public website.
The incident in question transpired on April 8 when Hague was arrested by the Kent County Sheriff’s Department following a domestic dispute at her residence, as per CAIR’s account. Upon being transported to Kent County Jail, she was allegedly compelled to remove her hijab in the presence of male officers and detainees.
While Hague was initially allowed to take her identification photo with her hijab intact, a male officer reportedly informed her that she had to pose for a second photo without it. CAIR claims that forcing Hague to take another photo without her hijab breached the sheriff’s office’s written policy regarding religious head coverings.
“Muslim women have the right to their sincerely-held religious expression even when interacting with law enforcement,” stated Dawud Walid, CAIR-MI Executive Director.
He continued, “Law enforcement officers involved in Ms. Hague’s detention require improved religious competency and rights training to ensure no Muslim woman is ever stripped of her hijab in public again.”
Following the initial filing on May 30, CAIR submitted a claim of notice seeking adjustment and compensation on Monday.
This incident is neither isolated nor unique to the Kent County Sheriff’s Office. Several similar lawsuits have been lodged by CAIR, including a federal class-action lawsuit against the Michigan Department of Corrections on behalf of more than 15 women, alleging forced hijab removal for mugshots.
“What CAIR-MI has observed is that law enforcement agencies across Michigan, including those in cities with significant Muslim populations, often lack basic understanding of the hijab’s religious and spiritual significance,” CAIR-MI staff attorney Amy V. Doukoure told The Messenger.
She said that lack of understanding directly infringes upon a Muslim woman’s constitutionally protected religious rights, causing embarrassment and anxiety about being seen without their hijab.
Doukoure further emphasized that even law enforcement agencies with policies in place to protect religious rights often fall short in ensuring those rights are not unnecessarily infringed upon by the government, as per US Constitution requirements.
She added, “In this case, either the sheriffs on duty that day at Kent County Jail were negligent, or they blatantly disregarded the policy, Ms. Hague’s feelings, and her rights. This resulted in Ms. Hague being forced to remove her hijab for a photograph that was later disseminated on the internet.”
The Kent County Sheriff’s Office acknowledged in a statement that Hague was asked to remove her hijab, but disputed the claim that this was done in front of any men.
The sheriff said that a female corrections officer had Hague remove her hijab away from the view of male officers and inmates to inspect it for weapons or restricted material. Afterward, she was allowed to put it back on before entering the booking area, according to the sheriff’s account.