Detroit-Area Muslim Woman Sues Police for Forcing Her to Remove Hijab

By Kenrya Rankin Jul 02, 2015

On June 30, 2015, a Muslim woman filed a federal lawsuit against the police department in Dearborn Heights, Michigan, for violating her civil rights.

According to the suit, after approaching Maha Aldhalimi for parking her car in a no-parking zone outside Walmart, police arrested her on a warrant for an unpaid parking ticket. At the station, she was ordered to remove her hijab in the presence of several policemen to take her booking photo. Reportedly, Aldhalimi tearfully explained that removing her headscarf would violate her religious beliefs. She alleges that she complied when officers threatened to forcibly remove it. As part of the Muslim faith, some women wear the hijab—which covers the hair and neck but not the face—to protect her modesty when she is around men who are not members of her family. 

“I am scared to leave my house now, and if I see a police officer when I am driving somewhere, I start shaking uncontrollably and turn in the opposite direction,” Aldhalimi said

The suit was filed in conjunction with the American Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC). In a statement released following the filing, ADC-Michigan Director attorney Fatina Abdrabboh discussed the case:

“We must not live in a society where discrimination along religious lines can be condoned, especially when this violation is committed by the very entity charged with protecting them—the Dearborn Police Department. The Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (RLUIPA) protects people institutionalized and in custody and was designed by Congress to ensure the freedom to practice sincerely held religious beliefs. The practices of the City of Dearborn in relationship to Muslim women and their religious practices must not any longer go unchecked.”

On January 22, 2015, another Muslim woman filed suit against the same police department for forcing her to remove her hijab. That suit is still pending.