(WWJ) The Michigan chapter of the Council on American Islamic Relations, a local chapter of the nation’s largest civil rights and advocacy organization, today announced the filing of a federal lawsuit against the city of Detroit, Detroit Detention Center and the Michigan Department of Corrections on behalf of a Michigan Muslim woman who says she was forced to remove her hijab for a booking photo.
They allege in April of 2019, Zainab Chaaban was arrested by City of Detroit Police Officers and forced to remove her hijab to take a booking photo despite her repeated protests.
“While Ms. Chaaban’s photo was taken without her hijab, she was in full view of a male officer that was in an adjoining room that overlooked the area as well as a male janitorial staff member who is believed to have seen Ms. Chaaban without her hijab,” defense attorneys said, adding, “Even more egregious is the fact that Ms. Chaaban was required to wear a copy of her hijabless photo on a wristband which she was forced to present to male and female guards alike as she made her way through the facility for meals and for court.” That violated her religious beliefs, attorneys say, that forbids women from showing their faces to men to whom they’re not related.
Chaaban was later acquitted of all charges, but the photo of her uncovered face remains. Her attorneys say the booking photo she took without her hijab remains a public record which has been released at least two separate times pursuant to a Michigan Freedom of Information Act request.
CAIR-MI said they’ve made multiple attempts for several years, even before this incident with Ms. Chaaban that led to the filing of this lawsuit, to work with the MDOC to modify their photo policy to align with other state and federal agencies that allow Muslim women to wear a hijab in their official identification photos. CAIR-MI further, reached out immediately following this incident to the DDC to attempt to open a dialogue regarding what happened to Ms. Chaaban and address this unconstitutional and illegal policy of forced hijab removal.
“All attempts to communicate with DDC, The City of Detroit and the MDOC have went completely unanswered,” attorneys said, adding, “Forcing a Muslim woman to remove her hijab in such a public manner where men were present and could see her is not only a violation of Ms. Chaaban’s religious beliefs, it is tantamount to forcing a woman to walk around with completely naked in front of strangers. It is a degrading and traumatizing experience.”
Many police departments have policies in place to accomodate hijabs and religious beliefs, the New York Times reported although in 2018, the New York Police Department was ordered to pay $180,000 to three women who were forced to remove their hijabs for booking photos. In 2019, a new policy on how to treat female Muslim inmates in Minnesota was created after the police department had to pay a six-figure settlement to a woman who was forced to remove her hijab after an arrest over a traffic violation.
CAIR-MI Staff Attorney, Amy V. Doukoure added, “There is no legitimate basis to force women to take a jail identification photo without their hijab when every form of government at the state and federal level allow women to cover their hair in all identification photos including passports and drivers’ licenses. The City of Detroit and the MDOC need to immediately review and adapt their policies to conform with the United States and Michigan Constitutions as well as federal law.”
Earlier this year, other CAIR chapters around the nation have filed similar suits to protect the rights of Muslim women who are in custody of local and state police departments or who are being housed in jails and prisons.