DEARBORN (WWJ/AP) – The city of Dearborn is facing a federal lawsuit after police officers allegedly forced a Muslim woman to remove her head scarf following her arrest.
The American Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee names Dearborn, the Dearborn Police Department, Police Chief Ronald Haddad and other officers in the lawsuit, filed Tuesday in Detroit federal court.
Maha Aldhalimi was told that she was wanted for an unpaid parking violation when she was arrested in Septamber — but she said didn’t know about the ticket.
Once in custody at the Dearborn Police Department, she said she was ordered to remove her headscarf, known as a hijab, for a photo — in the presence of several male officers.
Aldhalimi said she was crying while explaining that removing the scarf in front of male strangers would violate her religious beliefs, and that she finally agreed to remove it under threat.
As part of Muslim beliefs, the hijab — which, unlike the niqab or burka, covers the hair and neck but not the face — must be worn when in the presence of any males who are not family members.
“I am scared to leave my house now, and if I see a police officer when I am driving somewhere, I start shaking uncontrollably and turn in the opposite direction,” Aldhalimi said.
Attorneys for Aldhalimi claim Dearborn police of violated federal law.
“We must not live in a society where the oppression of women or religious minorities can be condoned, especially when this violation is committed by the very entity charged with protecting them – the Dearborn Police Department,” ADC-Michigan Director, attorney Fatina Abdrabboh said in a statement.
The city of Dearborn — which has one of the largest populations of Arab-Americans in the U.S. — declined to comment.
This incident is similar to another — earlier this year in Dearborn Heights — in which a 27-year-old Muslim woman said was forced to remove her hijab while in custody for driving on a suspended license. She reportedly asked for a female police officer, but was told that one was not available.
A lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court against the city of Dearborn Heights in January seeks to change the policy and asks that officers undergo sensitivity and diversity training. That case is still pending.
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