Muslim woman sues Chicago officers for ripping off hijab, assaulting her during Ramadan

© Mike Segar
A Muslim woman has sued Chicago police, accusing officers of detaining and assaulting her because of her religious outfit as well as unlawfully searching and prosecuting. Police claimed she took her for “a lone wolf suicide bomber.”

Itemid Al-Matar, 32, was observing Ramadan, a holy month of fasting in Islam. On July 4 last year, she was trying to make it on a CTA train so that she could get home and break her fast at sunset. However, on her way to the platform, when she was suddenly tackled to the group by five officers. According her lawsuit, the officers approaches her from behind.

"Several [officers] ran up the stairs and grabbed the Plaintiff and threw her down upon the stair landing, then pulling at her and ripping off her hijab," a federal lawsuit filed on her behalf read.
Thrown in jail on the night of the incident, she failed to break the fast that day.

Al-Matar’s attorney Gregory Kulis has said that his client was handcuffed, searched and her religious headwear, a hijab and niqab ripped off, exposing her body, Chicago Tribune reported.

A police report filed the night of the incident, said that says officers had been "on high alert of terrorist activity" when they spotted Al-Matar exhibiting what they called a “suspicious behavior." They wrote that she was at "a brisk pace, in a determined manner."

The police claimed that Al Matar was ordered to stop, but she failed to comply, forcing them to think that she “might be a lone wolf suicide bomber.”

They also wrote that she was “furiously clutching her backpack and appeared to be trying to reach for something.”

It later appeared that she had food in her backpack.

While Kulis did not criticize Chicago officers for showing vigilance, he reportedly scolded their inappropriate approach.

"If they felt that there was some concern, the initial approach would be like every one of us on the street: 'Excuse me, sir, excuse me, ma'am, can I just ask you a question — what's your name and where are you going?'" Kulis said.

Following her arrest, Al-Matar was charged with reckless conduct and several counts of obstructing justice. However, in June, a Cook County judge dropped all charges.

She is now accusing Chicago police officers of using excessive force, false arrest, unlawful search, malicious prosecution and violation of her right to freedom of religious expression, the newspaper said.

The complaint says the woman “suffered violations of her constitutional rights, emotional anxiety, fear, humiliation, monetary loss, embarrassment, fear, pain and suffering and future pain and suffering.”

Al-Matar, who came to the US two years ago to study English, reportedly stayed home this past July 4, because she did not “want that nightmare to happen again.”

The Chicago Police Department declined to comment due to the pending lawsuit.