The city of New York settled a legal dispute with three Muslim women and pay them a total of $180,000 because they had been forced to remove their hijabs for mug shots. The settlements were filed on Monday in a Brooklyn federal court. Lawsuits against the New York Police Department have brought about new protocols for photographing persons wearing religious headgear.
In 2012, a Muslim high school girl in Brooklyn, who was identified merely as “G.E.”, was arrested following a scuffle with two other girls who she believed were spreading rumors about her. While a criminal case was dismissed, it was the mug shots that were the focus of a subsequent civil rights case. When G.E. was taken to the 62nd Precinct station, police instructed her to take off her hijab head scarf. When she refused, a female officer then photographed her in a private room. But when G.E. was then taken to the Brooklyn central booking station, G.E. was told that photographs could not be taken privately because there were not female officers available and the camera was located in a fixed location. A male officer took her photo.
G.E.’s lawsuit claimed that she felt “exposed, violated and distraught” because her head was bereft of the hijab for 20 minutes while male officers and prisoners observed.
In 2015, court records show that NYPD issued new rules regarding persons who refuse to remove their religious head coverings. Officers were instructed to say that private photos can be taken by an officer of the same sex.
Attorney Tahanie Aboushi, who represented G.E., filed similar cases later concerning incidents that occured after the change in rules. A Muslim woman claimed that she was compelled to remove her veil by police in Brooklyn, while another said her hijab was removed at the scene of her arrest. She had been knocked unconscious in an altercation with a neighbor over a parking space.
The three Muslim plaintiffs settled for $60,000 apiece, according to the Law Department.
Aboushi told the Daily News on Tuesday that NYPD issued additional policies regarding religious headwear in December 2017. “We did our best to establish good precedent,” Aboushi said. “On the one hand, it gives officers guidance, and on the other hand, it protects the exercise of religious freedom.”
Spero News writer Martin Barillas is a former US diplomat, who also worked as a democracy advocate and election observer in Latin America. His first novel 'Shaken Earth', is available at Amazon.