On Thursday, January 22, Malak Kazan reportedly filed a federal lawsuit against the Dearborn Heights Police Department after she was allegedly forced to remove her hijab. The 27-year-old woman insists police department violated her constitutional rights by forbidding her to wear the headscarf. According to the Detroit News, court documentation reveals that the incident took place back in July of 2014, when Kazan was arrested for a traffic misdemeanor for operating a vehicle with an suspended license.
During the booking process, officers reportedly asking Kazan to remove her hijab for the booking photo. In most cases, no head coverings, hats, or other garments can be worn. Kazan reportedly refused to comply with the male officer, and asked if a female officer could take her picture. The male officer refused to adhere to her request. His supervisor also directed him to proceed with the booking process as usual.
Fox News also reported that she was not allowed to wear her hijab the entire time she was in custody. The series of events that led to the discrimination lawsuit are reportedly considered a “clash of conflicting rights.”
Kazan, who has been wearing her hijab for 12 years, was extremely embarrassed by the police department’s orders. In the suit, she explained how “wearing a headscarf is a reminder of her faith, the importance of modesty in her religion… as well as a symbol of her own control over who may see the more intimate parts of her body.”
“To have her hair and neck uncovered in public… is… deeply humiliating, violating, and defiling experience.”
Since the hijab is worn for religious purposes as opposed to fashion, Kazan feels her beliefs should have been taken into consideration. USA Today reports that the lawsuit is also requesting modifications for the booking procedure to allow for exemptions where religious beliefs are concerned.
Kazan recently recounted the embarrassing incident with Arab American News. She also revealed she filed the lawsuit so other women in her position will never have to feel the humiliation she felt during the booking process.
“I honestly don’t want other women to be put in my position, where they are forced to take off their scarf in front of men they don’t know. I was so upset. It was such an uncomfortable feeling. I’ve worn my scarf for 12 years and my religion says that I can’t take it off. It’s not just a religious issue; this is a part of me. It’s my culture, my life and my identity.”
Kazan’s attorney, Amir Makled, released a statement on her behalf in reference to the case.
“To be exposed in front of men who aren’t part of her immediate family is a serious breach of faith and practice. She has a sincere belief in her religion and to be demanded to remove her scarf is a clear violation. She felt extremely humiliated.”
“The main issue here is that my client’s constitutional rights, her religious liberties, can’t be stripped at the jailhouse door. She has an absolute right to maintain her faith,” attorney Makled said. “We hope this cause of action will bring to light a policy that is dated and needs to be amended. … We also hope to get some further diversity training for officers in the city. Hopefully this will be a learning experience for other law enforcement agencies.”
According to the lawsuit filed in the U.S. District Court, Kazan is seeking punitive and compensatory damages. She is also petitioning for the Dearborn Police Department to make necessary changes to its policies regarding head scarves.
[Image via Twitter]