GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — A Muslim woman from Grand Rapids is planning on suing the Kent County Sheriff’s Office because she was forced to remove her hijab when a booking photo was taken at the jail.
A staff attorney with the Council on American-Islamic Relations Michigan Chapter said her client Jannah Hague, who is Muslim, was arrested April 8 for a domestic violence incident at her home.
“Initially, they had indicated that she could leave her religious head covering, hijab … on for the booking photo. However, a male officer who was in the room told a female officer to remove her hijab,” attorney Amy Doukoure of CAIR-MI said.
Doukoure and court documents say Hague identified herself as a practicing Muslim wearing the hijab as part of her religious beliefs.
“The officer indicated to her it didn’t matter, that she had to take it off. So they proceeded to have her remove her hijab and they took another photo of her without her hijab in front of male officers and male detainees and then they proceeded to publish that photograph without her hijab on,” Doukoure said.
Hague was released from the Kent County jail without charges.
Doukoure explained that wearing a hijab is an important religious practice for Muslim women.
“It becomes a part of your identity and when you’re without it in front of other people, you feel naked, you feel exposed,” Doukoure said.
This week, CAIR-MI filed a claim of notice seeking adjustment and payment.
“It appears that despite the fact that they had a policy in place, the officers involved violated that policy,” Doukoure said.
The Kent County Sheriff’s Office acknowledged in a statement that Hague was asked to remove her hijab but disputed part of the suit’s claims, saying that Hague was not required to do so in front of any men.
“As she was being processed into the jail our female corrections officer took her out of view of all male officers and inmates and asked her to remove the head covering to inspect it for weapons or other restricted material, and then she was allowed to put it back on before entering the booking area,” the statement said. “At the end of the booking process, it is required by law to take a photograph of the arrestee. When this photograph was taken our female corrections officer ensured that no male officers or inmates were able to view Ms. Hague without the head covering. There is a video and audio recording of this booking process in its entirety.
“We do take Ms. Hague’s concern very seriously,” the statement added.
Doukoure argued her client’s rights were violated.
“We’re hoping to resolve it by providing training, hopefully modifying their policy because we don’t believe that their policy really goes far enough because it does allow for the photographing of women without their hijab,” she said. “And we’ve been successful in having policies similar to that revised to be more protective of religious rights.”
A similar lawsuit was filed against the Oceana County Sheriff’s Department in 2015 claiming a Muslim woman was forced to remove her hijab during a booking photo. That case was later dismissed.