A Georgia prison guard who recently converted to Islam alleges that the state Department of Corrections has barred her from wearing a hijab while on the job.
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports 25-year-old Rogers State Prison corrections officer Jalanda Calhoun has filed a discrimination complaint against the agency with the state Commission on Equal Opportunity. Calhoun says she started wearing a hijab at the Reidsville men’s prison and was asked to stop several weeks later.
Calhoun says she received a letter from prison Warden Linton Deloach that said her hijab didn’t meet agency standards. She says Deloach suggested she instead wear an agency cap and expressed concern about being able to identify her, and that contraband could be concealed in the scarf.
“Both my job and my religion are very important to me,” Calhoun said. “I never thought I would have to choose between” her job and religion.
Muslim activists such as executive director of CAIR-Georgia Edward Ahmed Mitchell argue that Calhoun should be allowed to don a hijab since U.S. military personnel are allowed to wear religious symbols.
“If you are a Muslim woman who wears a hijab, a Sikh man who wears a turban, an Orthodox Jew who wears a kippah or a Catholic nun who wears a habit, you can serve in the U.S. military while wearing your religious clothing,” said Mitchell. ”You can patrol the streets of the city as a police officer. You can perform heart surgery. You can fly a plane. You can do any number of things, but according to the state of Georgia, you cannot wear your religious clothing while you work in the Department of Corrections.”
The corrections department has yet to issue a statement on the matter.
The AP contributed to this report.