A Muslim woman recently filed a federal lawsuit against Dearborn Heights in Michigan, the city’s police department and its police chief, after authorities compelled her to remove her hijab following an arrest. Malak Kazan, 27, alleged that police officers at Dearborn Heights infringed upon her First Amendment right to religious freedom by forcing her to get rid of her headscarf while booking her. Another part of the lawsuit states that the entire incident took place in the absence of female police officers at the time of her booking.
Kazan said when she asked to be presented before a female police officer, the male staff told her no women were available. Reportedly, a supervisor warned her that if she did not take off her hijab, it could lead to dire consequences. Kazan’s Islamic faith requires her to wear a headscarf in front of men who are not part of her immediate family.
“Your religious freedoms are not stripped at the jailhouse door. It's part of the cannons (sic) of their faith to wear a head scarf. For her to have it removed in front of a non-relative male, would be a non-pleasant experience for her,” said Kazan's attorney, Amir Makled.
The lawsuit describes Kazan’s experience as violating, deeply humiliating, and defiling.
Kazan was arrested for a warrant following a traffic stop as well as her driver’s license having expired in July 2014. The two warrants for Kazan’s arrest were a result of her failure to appear in court in due time. In November 2014, she was booked and detained for the offenses.
Standing by his department’s procedure, Dearborn Heights Police Chief Lee Garvin said, “Articles such as hats, caps, hijabs, can contain concealable items that could pose a threat or chance of injury to the cops or to themselves. … Our procedure is to have them take the hijab off in the presence of a female. We don't always have enough female officers present in the station. Our Number one concern is security of our officers and the prisoners.”
However, Makled opposed Garvin’s point by saying Kazan’s hijab caused no such threat. He also called the department’s approach discriminatory.
“At this point she is only doing a booking photograph. They can't get in here and say officer safety. It's a booking photo it's used for identity purposes only,” he said.
Kazan said she filed the lawsuit to ensure the department modifies its current policy so Muslim women can wear their headscarves during booking procedures and thus not feel humiliated. Makled is seeking punitive and compensatory damages for his client. He has cited Kazan’s Fourth as well as Fourteenth Amendment rights that secure her from unreasonable searches by the government and allow her equal protection of the law respectively.
Photo Credits: City of Dearborn Heights