·  Legal News, Analysis, & Commentary

Verdicts & Settlements

Police Department Settles Lawsuit After Officers Force Muslim Woman to Remove Hijab

— May 26, 2022

The settlement will oblige Metropolitan Detroit’s Ferndale Police Department to make procedural changes in how it books practicing Muslim women.

A Michigan police department has agreed to change its booking policies after an officer forced a Muslim woman to remove her hijab for a mugshot.

According to FOX2Detroit, the Council on American Islamic Relations said that it had reached a “satisfactory settlement” with the Ferndale Police Department.

CAIR had filed a lawsuit after Helena Bowe, a practicing Muslim, said officers violated her civil rights. Bowe had been detained during a traffic stop and then taken to the Ferndale jail. During the traffic stop, officers told Bowe that her license plate registration had expired.

While a second check revealed that Bowe’s registration was not, in fact, expired, she disclosed to officers that she had a taser in her purse.

Law enforcement told Bowe that she needed a permit for her taser. After a brief confrontation, Bowe was taken into custody.

After arriving to the Ferndale jail, officers asked Bowe to remove her hijab—a religious head covering—to be photographed and booked.

Stock image of an Indonesian woman wearing hijab. Islamic scholars tend to agree that men and women alike must clothe themselves modestly. However, there are many sectarian and socio-cultural differences in what constitutes proper hijab. Image via Pixabay. Public domain.

However, most schools of Islamic practice suggest that adult woman maintain modesty in public. Both men and women are required to adhere to certain restrictions on dress. For women, this usually means keep their hair covered.

In general, practicing Muslim women will not remove their headscarf in the presence of unrelated men. This practice has its underpinnings in both Islamic scripture and written accounts of the life of the Prophet Mohammed.

CAIR attorney Amy Doukoure said in a press release that Ferndale corrections staff violated her client’s civil rights.

“The male guard forced our client to remove her religious covering despite her pleas to not have to remove it, stating that removing it made her in a state of undress and that was a violation of her sincerely held religious beliefs,” Doukoure said.

CAIR’s Michigan chapter said the settlement requires the Ferndale Police Department to make procedural changes when booking Muslim women, allowing them to retain their head coverings even in mugshots.

Ferndale also agreed to prohibit cross-gender searches under most circumstances. The police department will also provide Bowe with financial compensation. However, the amount of compensation was not disclosed.

“We are pleased to announce this settlement and believe that the policies that Ferndale has put in place will protect the religious rights of Muslim women who may find themselves in [the police department’s] custody,” Doukoure said. “It is important to remember that the Constitution was written to protect those who are most vulnerable, and many of the rights protected by the Bill of Rights were enacted to safeguard our freedoms, specifically during interactions with law enforcement. Religious freedoms remain intact, even when facing arrest or incarceration.”


CAIR-MI Announces Settlement on Behalf of Muslim Woman Who Had Her Hijab Forcibly Removed by Ferndale Police in 2021

CAIR-Michigan files lawsuit against Ferndale, alleging forced removal of woman’s hijab

Ferndale police settle with Muslim woman over hijab removal lawsuit

Join the conversation!