Muslim Woman Was Forced to Remove Hijab for Booking Photo After Arrest, Advocacy Group Says

Warning: Story contains graphic descriptions that may be disturbing to some users. Caution advised.
An 18-year-old Muslim woman was forced to remove her hijab for a booking photograph after she was arrested in Miami this month during a protest, an advocacy group said on Monday.
The woman, Alaa Massri of Miami Beach, was among the demonstrators who were protesting at the site of two statues of Christopher Columbus and Juan Ponce de León near Bayside Market on June 10, according to the Miami Police Department.
Several demonstrators vandalized the statues with, among other things, spray-painted images of a hammer and sickle, the police said. Afterward, several altercations broke out as officers tried to arrest demonstrators, the police said.
At one point, officers formed a “skirmish line” to prevent demonstrators from “taking over the street,” the police said. An officer who ordered several other people out of the street “came into contact” with Ms. Massri. She “became irate” as an officer “was guiding her up the street,” the police said. They said that the officer “grabbed” her after she “continued to remain in the roadway” and that she punched the officer “in the right bicep with a closed fist.”
After briefly resisting arrest, Ms. Massri was taken into custody and charged with battery against an officer, resisting an officer with violence to his person and disorderly conduct, the police said.
Ms. Massri was processed at a Miami-Dade County Corrections and Rehabilitation center. There, according to Hassan Shibly, the chief executive director of CAIR Florida, a civil liberties and advocacy organization, corrections officers took off her hijab.
“She was wrongfully and unconstitutionally photographed without her hijab, and it was made accessible to countless media outlets,” he said.
As of Monday night, more than 104,000 people had signed a petition online denouncing the treatment of Ms. Massri by the county corrections department. The officers “consciously took away her rights to be a woman practicing Islam and spread an image she never thought would be out in the world,” the petition says.
Messages left for Ms. Massri and her lawyer were not immediately returned on Monday night.
A spokesman for the corrections department did not immediately provide a response late Monday night. But in a statement emailed to The Miami Herald, the department said that it could “accommodate inmates who wear head coverings for religious reasons” and noted that it was reviewing the matter “to ensure compliance with our policies.”
A hijab is a religious covering worn by Muslim women in a variety of ways. The color and shape are deeply influenced by various cultural trends, meant to show a level of modesty.
The demonstration on June 10 was among the protests across the country that were prompted by the death of George Floyd in police custody in Minneapolis last month. Protesters have called for racial justice and an end to police violence that targets people of color. The marches have also spawned a renewed effort to take down statues in public spaces that honor people linked to slavery and colonization.
Many law enforcement agencies have policies in place to accommodate people who wear religious attire, Mr. Shibly said.
Some agencies have paid to settle lawsuits after being accused of not making appropriate accommodations for people who wear religious clothing.
In 2018, the New York Police Department was ordered to pay $180,000 to three women who were forced to remove their hijabs for booking photos, The Daily News reported at the time. In 2019, a new policy on how to treat female Muslim inmates in Minnesota was created in the wake of a six-figure settlement with a woman there who was forced to remove her hijab after an arrest over a traffic violation, The Star Tribune reported.
Linda Sarsour, a Muslim activist in New York who has been arrested numerous times for civil disobedience, said it did not serve law enforcement to take booking photographs of people without the religious attire they routinely wear.
“My driver’s license, hijab. My passport, hijab. My Costco card, hijab,” she said. “Why would you want me in your database in a way that does not look like myself?”

Comments are closed, but trackbacks and pingbacks are open.