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Verdicts & Settlements

Muslim Women Forced to Remove Hijabs for Mugshots Settle with New York City

— March 4, 2018

Three Muslim women forced by New York police officials to remove their hijabs for mugshots settled with the city for $60,000.

According to The New York Times¸ the agreement was reached Monday and first reported the following day. Kimberly Joyce, spokeswoman for the city’s law department, said, “The resolution of these matters were in the best interest of all parties involved.”

Each of the settlements, writes the Times, stem from separate encounters spanning the years between 2012 and 2015.

Sikh men wearing turbans and religious attire. Sikhs — members of a monotheistic, independent religion native to South Asia — have faced discrimination in Western countries due to their customary turbans and beards. Anti-Sikh sentiment is largely a case of mistaken identity, with bigots believing they’re Muslim. Image via Pxhere/public domain.

In 2012, a Brooklyn high school student booked on a harassment complaint was asked to remove her hijab while being processed at a detention facility. Her request to have a female officer take the picture in private was denied.

Three years later, a woman known as ‘J.H.’ was asked to do the same at Brooklyn Central Booking. She told law enforcement officials that, per her religious beliefs, she wasn’t allowed to take off her headscarf in the presence of unrelated men. Nevertheless, she was coerced into removing her hijab – allegedly prompting male detainees to verbally abuse her.

Each of the three women were brought before court on different charges, and each of the three were released without conviction.

Tahanie A. Aboushi, who represented the three in litigation, said the settlement is important for people whose religion dictates adherence to a certain form of attire – not just women, and not just Muslims. Aboushi gave the example of Orthodox Jewish women, ordained to dress modestly, and male Sikhs, who customarily wear turbans.

In 2015 and 2017, the New York Police Department adjusted its policies to be more accommodating of minorities. While officers had been given ‘discretionary’ powers to consider detainee requests in the past, an interim order mandated that people who are arrested can ask to be photographed without their religious head coverings in private.

The Times gives the example of Maine sheriff Kevin Joyce of Cumberland County.

Joyce’s department had arrested several Muslim women during the course of a Black Lives Matter protest. The sheriff’s office then released mugshots of the ladies without hijab, causing outrage among minority advocates.

“With everything going on nationally, I think it is important the public understand we are transparent, we make mistakes on occasion, we are not going to cover them up and we are going to do our best and learn from them,” Joyce told The Portland Press-Herald in apology.

Aboushi praised the efforts of the New York Police Department to better empathize with Muslim women and religious minorities. Mentioning the 2017 policy, she credited the city and police with creating a “collaborative” end result and taking a “great first step.”

“We did our best to establish good precedent,” Aboushi said.

“On the one hand, it gives officers guidance, and on the other hand, it protects the exercise of religious freedom.”


Three Muslim women forced to remove hijabs for mug shots snag $180G payout from city

Women Forced to Remove Hijabs for Mug Shots Settle With New York City

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