Muslim Woman Forced to Strip, Remove Hijab in Jail Receives $120,000 Settlement

n Iraqi veiled woman covers her face with her hand, March 9, 2005 in Baghdad, Iraq. As violence and religious extremism flourishes in the Iraqi society more women find themselves under pressure to put on the Hijab headscarf. (Photo by Ghaith Abdul-Ahad/Getty Images)
Ghaith Abdul-Ahad/Getty Images

A Minnesota Muslim woman who was forced to strip and remove her hijab while being arrested for a traffic violation in 2013 received a $120,000 settlement.

Aida Shyef Al-Kadi, of St. Louis Park, Minnesota, appeared at a press conference Tuesday with attorneys from the Minneapolis chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) to announce the settlement that U.S. District Court Judge John Tunheim approved last month.

“It was one of the most humiliating and harmful experiences of my life,” Al-Kadi, 57, told reporters about her treatment in the jail in August 2013 that she alleged violated her religious and constitutional rights. “I knew that I did not want any other Muslim woman to experience what I did.”

A judge issued an arrest warrant for Al-Kadi after she failed to show up in court over a traffic offense while taking her daughter to the hospital.

When Al-Kadi turned herself in, officers told her to remove her clothing and her hijab in front of male corrections officers. After she objected, she said she was taken to a holding cell where she removed her hijab in front of a male corrections officer.

Al-Kadi said she agreed to remove her hijab for her booking photo after being told it would not be released publicly. She found the photo months later on a third-party website that charges users to take the photos down.

After she took the photo, corrections officers gave her a bedsheet to use as a headscarf and was told to change out of her clothes and into a jail uniform. Two female corrections officers were watching her at the time.

Under the settlement, the jail instated specific rules about how to treat inmates who wear religious head garments while they are being booked and the county agreed to delete all electronic copies and demolish hard copies of Al-Kadi’s booking photo.

The county revised its jail policies in 2014 to state that bedsheets would not longer be used and that inmates who wear hijabs would not be forced to take them off in front of men.

However, the settlement does not require the county to admit it did anything wrong in Al-Kadi’s case.

“We believe that this settlement agreement is fair and in the best interests of all of our residents. Ramsey County’s values hold that the rights, beliefs, well-being and dignity of all our residents are protected and honored in all aspects of what we do,” Ramsey County Board Chair Jim McDonough said in a statement Tuesday.

“The practices outlined in the agreement to improve the booking process for those with religious head coverings better reflect these values,” his statement continued.

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