Muslim woman sues Michigan police after forced headscarf removal

Reuters / Olivia Harris
A Muslim woman is suing Michigan police for allegedly coercing her into removing her Islamic headscarf after being arrested for a parking violation.

The official lawsuit was filed on Tuesday by the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC) against the city of Dearborn, a town just south of Detroit. It states the town’s police forced Maha Aldhalimi to remove her Islamic headscarf in order to take a mugshot after her arrest for a parking violation.

Aldhalimi was arrested on September 15, 2014, when the police saw her vehicle parked in a no-parking zone outside of a Wal-Mart.

After checking the license plate and registration number, “a warrant for her arrest for an unpaid parking violation” popped up, according to the lawsuit.

The police then proceeded to arrest the woman and brought her down to the station where they allegedly forced her to remove her hijab for a booking photo.

At first, Aldhalimi refused to remove the headscarf, explaining that it violated her religious beliefs. The officers then told the woman “to remove her hijab or it would be removed involuntarily against her will,” the lawsuit said.

She began to cry and exhibited distress. Her son, who arrived at the station, confirmed that his mother’s religious beliefs prohibited her from taking off the hijab in front of strangers.

Aldhalimi said she “was shivering and crying from the humiliation and distress of the encounter and orders.”

Following the threats from the police, she was persuaded to take off the headscarf against her will.

“The city of Dearborn should know that the covering of a Muslim woman is a religious observance,” ADC Michigan director, Fatina Abdrabboh, told MyFoxDetroit. “The woman was arrested for a year or two-year-old unpaid parking violation. She was arrested in a public place in a local Walmart and she presented no threat except perhaps for her frantic crying and begging to not have her head scarf removed.”

“The plaintiff was not provided a woman officer despite her requests for one,” Abdrabboh said. “And having a woman take the mugshot is a very good first start at addressing the problem.”

This is far from the first complaint placed against the Dearborn Police for violating the rights of Muslim women wearing hijabs.

Several separate lawsuits have been filed against the Dearborn Heights Police and the Oceana County Sheriff by Muslim women this year.

The city of Dearborn has not issued any comments on the lawsuit or how its police force treats Muslim women.