With the rise of Muslim populations in cities across America has come an increase in culture clashes and legal challenges of laws and rules that have been on the books for decades.
In the latest reflection of that trend, a Muslim woman is suing the city of Dearborn Heights and its police department claiming her rights were “stripped at the jailhouse door” when she was forced to remove her hijab, or religious head scarf, while in custody for a driving violation.
According to the suit filed last Thursday in U.S. District Court in Detroit, police stopped Malak Kazan for driving with a suspended license on July 9, 2014.
While being processed at the local jail, Kazan was asked to remove her hijab, which the tenets of Islam require for “covering her hair, ears, neck and part of her chest when she is in public and when she is in the presence of men who are not members of her immediate family,” the suit said.
According to a report in the Detroit News, Kazan, 27, told an officer she could not remove the scarf because that would violate her religious beliefs. The officer informed her that this was standard procedure and there were “no exceptions” to the rule, according to the court filing.
Her request for help from a female police officer also was denied, the newspaper reported.
The Dearborn area has one of the highest concentrations of Muslim Americans in the United States.
In other U.S. cities with large Muslim populations, businesses and government officials have come under pressure to provide separate accommodations for members of the Islamic faith. In the Minneapolis-St. Paul area of Minnesota, for instance, there have been demands for foot baths and halal food in public schools.
“We’ve had a number of demands for foot baths at community colleges and demands that food be changed at various public schools to be in accord with Islamic tradition,” former congresswoman Michele Bachmann, R-Minn., told WND last September. “There’s just a real concern that the way of living of Somalia is being imposed on Minnesota as opposed to them adapting to the American way of life.”
In April of last year, the mayor of Minneapolis, Betsy Hodges, showed up to a meeting with Somali-Americans dressed in a hijab. Hodges is not Muslim.
The New York City law firm of Ganfer & Shore, LLP, reports that allegations by Muslims of workplace discrimination have been on the rise since 2004.
The U.S. has taken in nearly 2 million refugees from war-torn Muslim countries since 1992 through the U.S. State Department’s Refugee Resettlement program. And that does not include Muslims entering the U.S. for extended stays on student visas and employment-based programs such as the H1B visa. All told, about 100,000 new Muslims enter the country every year, according to a recent study by the Center for Immigration Studies.
The number of annual work-place complaints more than doubled between 2004 and 2009, according to Equal Employment Opportunity Commission data. In 2009, the EEOC received 1,490 complaints from Muslims, the fifth consecutive year the number of complaints rose.
Muslim employees seeking accommodations to wear hajabs, to set aside time or space for daily prayer, or to perform ablutions before prayers; or, in meatpacking plants, to abstain from handling pork, often meet with antagonism from employers and co-workers, according to the report by Ganfer & Shore. Attempts at conflict resolution have met with mixed results and the cases often end up in court.
The suit filed last week in Dearborn Heights claims that Kazan was denied her constitutional rights and suffered “severe discomfort, humiliation and emotional distress” for having to remove her hijab.
The suit seeks a permanent injunction requiring the city to modify its head covering policy to allow for those worn for religious purposes as well as provide sensitivity training to police.
An unspecified amount of damages also are sought.
“The main issue here is that my client’s constitutional rights, her religious liberties, can’t be stripped at the jailhouse door. She has an absolute right to maintain her faith,” attorney Amir Makled told the Detroit News. “We hope this cause of action will bring to light a policy that is dated and needs to be amended. … We also hope to get some further diversity training for officers in the city. Hopefully this will be a learning experience for other law enforcement agencies.”
WND contacted Dearborn Heights Police Chief Lee Gavin requesting comment but he did not immediately respond.
Larry Dubin, a professor at the University of Detroit Mercy School of Law, said the case involves conflicting rights.
“Ms. Kazan is entitled under the First Amendment protection of her religious beliefs including the wearing of a hijab, which may cover part of her face. However, the police have the right to process a person who is being arrested.”
A representative of the Council of American-Islamic Relations or CAIR told the Detroit News his organization would be happy to help educate the police in how to show greater respect for Muslim religious customs.
In fact CAIR’s Michigan chapter has already met with Dearborn Heights and Dearborn officials last year about pursuing policies that would accommodate head coverings during bookings, CAIR executive director Dawud Walid told the Detroit News.
“We’re always open to meet with those two police departments again as well as in the local area to assist them in implementing policies that are religious-friendly,” Walid told the News.
Walid said that since hijabs have been allowed in some military IDs, passport photos and state driver’s licenses, “wearing a head covering during a booking photo doesn’t impede in identification purposes.”
Pamela Geller, author of the book “Stop the Islamization of America” and of the blog Atlas Shrugs, said CAIR has a history of backing lawsuits meant to intimidate cities and police into giving preferential treatment to Muslims.
“If they get the headscarf rule changed for Muslims only, this will be another victory for Hamas-CAIR’s stealth campaign to secure special accommodation for Muslims, in line with the shariah, which denies non-Muslims basic rights that only Muslims enjoy,” Geller told WND. “If they get it discarded altogether, it will be another victory for Hamas-CAIR’s ongoing campaign against law enforcement and attempts to clear away obstacles to the advance of jihad.”
Robert Spencer, author of the jihadwatch blog and several books about Islam, said the intimidation tactics from CAIR are relentless and unreasonable.
“Mandating removal of headgear of people in custody is simply a safety move,” he said. “That Hamas-linked CAIR would be involved in this case shows that it has seized upon it as part of its ongoing efforts to weaken law enforcement, stop all law enforcement scrutiny of Muslims, and secure special privileges for Muslims in American society.”
The U.S. Supreme Court ruled this week that a prisoner has the right to grow a beard for religious purposes “even though the prison officials believed improper drugs or other matter could be hidden from view,” Dubin said.
Andrew Bostom, author of “Shariah Versus Freedom: The Legacy of Islamic Totalitarianism,” said he doesn’t have a problem with changing the rules for hijabs as long as the same rights are afforded to Orthodox Jewish women or Amish Christian women, or even Pentecostal women, all of whom either wear head coverings or wear their hair tied up in a bun atop their heads.
“I think it’s much worse when you have cases of women who didn’t want to take off the niqab, which is the full veil with only the eye slits, where you can’t identify the person, period,” Bostom said. “Yes, this is a real issue. The obvious analogy would be how do they handle the Jewish Orthodox woman or an Amish woman, where the hair is compressed?”
Dubin, the law professor, said he thought Kazan’s lawsuit could have been avoided if the police had brought in a female officer to process her.
“In that way, the police would have afforded Ms. Kazan her constitutional rights while accomplishing the legitimate police work that needed to be done,” Dubin told the Detroit News. “Ultimately, a federal judge will decide how to balance these conflicting rights.”