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Ninth Circuit rules removing headscarf in holding cell does not violate rights

The US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit [official website] ruled [opinion, PDF] Monday that a Muslim woman's religious rights were not violated by police officers when she was forced to remove her religious headscarf [JURIST news archive] while being detained in a holding cell. Souhair Khatib had argued that being forced to remove her hijab was a violation of her religious rights under the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (RLUIPA) [text], which prohibits governments from imposing regulations upon inmates that engender religious discrimination. Khatib argued that she suffered embarrassment and her religious beliefs were compromised by being forced to remove her headscarf in front of strangers. The officers had required that she remove her hijab due to a security risk. In a 2-1 decision, the appeals court panel ruled that a holding cell is not a "prison, jail or pretrial detention facility" for protection under the law. This decision upheld the ruling [opinion, PDF] of the US District Court of the Central District of California [official website].

Last month, a judge in the US District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan [official website] dismissed [JURIST report] a lawsuit against a Michigan judge who ordered a Muslim woman to remove her headscarf in court. The suit [complaint, PDF] was filed in August by the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) [advocacy website] on behalf of Raneen Albaghdady against Judge William Callahan of the Wayne County Circuit Court. Callahan has a policy against hats in his courtroom, and when he asked Albaghdady to remove her headscarf, or hijab, she did so without objection. In 2008, a Muslim woman in Georgia was arrested and ordered to serve 10 days in jail [JURIST report] for contempt of court after she refused to remove her headscarf, upon entering a security checkpoint in an Atlanta courtroom.

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