New York City will have to pay three Muslim women $180,000 after they successfully filed lawsuits against the city and NYPD. This was after being forced to take off their hijabs for mugshots. According to the New York Daily News, the women who have accepted a $60,000 settlement each had filed lawsuits against NYC and the police department. According to NYPD policy requirements enacted in 2015, subjects who decline to take off their hijabs and headscarves are to be given the option to do so in the presence of a female police officer.
In 2012, a similar case involving a Muslim girl known as G.E led to the issue of rights associated with certain dress codes being addressed, especially with regard to religion and beliefs. She claimed feeling “exposed, violated and distraught” after being arrested, and forced to remove her hijab in the presence of a male police officer. G.E had been apprehended following an altercation with two other teen girls. According to her revelation, she was forced to stay without her hijab for about 20 minutes, while other law enforcement officers and inmates watched.
While different countries have different laws governing the donning of hijabs, it is considered a primarily religious element, which also makes it a human rights issue. Some governments, such as Saudi Arabia require women to cover their hair, but some western governments have outrightly banned this. Germany for example, banned face veils back in December last year, with German Chancellor, Angela Merkel stating, “Show your face. The full covering is not permissible and should be banned.”
France also banned the wearing of face veils outside one’s house in 2011. Anyone who forces a woman to wear one also risks a fine of up to $36,632 (€30,000), and a year in jail. Belgium and Bulgaria are two other European countries that have made wearing hijabs illegal, with the latter highlighting it as a matter of security.
Women found wearing one may face a fine of about $1,000, and their social security benefits voided. The ban in Bulgaria was condemned by Amnesty International, with its Europe Director, John Dalhuisen, stating that it infringed on the women’s rights to freedom of expression and religious beliefs. The following was his exact statement.
“Women in Bulgaria should be free to dress as they please and to wear the burqa or the niqab as an expression of their identity or beliefs. This ban violates their rights to freedom of expression and religion. This law is part of a disturbing trend of intolerance, xenophobia and, racism in Bulgaria.
Legitimate security concerns can be met with targeted restrictions on the complete covering of the face in well-defined high-risk locations and not through a blanket discriminatory ban such as this.”