San Bernardino County agreed today to institute policies that accommodate the First Amendment right to wear religious head scarves in jail.
The agreement was reached after the American Civil Liberties Union and the ACLU of Southern California sued San Bernardino County in U.S. District Court in December 2007 on behalf of a 29-year-old Muslim woman who was forced by county sheriff’s deputies to remove her religious head covering while in custody in San Bernardino County’s West Valley Detention Center.
My Hijab, My Right
I know it is difficult for some to understand why a piece of cloth on someone’s head can have so much importance. But the hijab is more than a piece of cloth for those of us who wear it. For me it is a privilege to be able to wear the hijab, and it is a daily reminder of my faith. It is a way for me to be in charge of my own femininity and to make an active decision about what I choose to cover and what I choose to let people see. For a Muslim woman to be forced to remove her hijab in public where men are present is a humiliating and possibly traumatizing experience that she will not soon forget. This humiliation and indignation is the same that a non-Muslim woman would feel if she were forced to take off her shirt and bra and walk around topless in public where men are present. Just as most women feel that their breasts are a private area that is to be covered in public, many Muslim women feel the same way about their hair. The forcible removal of a woman’s hijab should be just as unacceptable as the compulsory removal of a woman’s shirt and bra.