Muslim woman sues for being forced to remove headscarf in US jail

Jameelah MedinaA Muslim woman arrested for riding a commuter train without a valid ticket has filed a federal lawsuit in the United States, claiming her religious freedom was violated when she was forced to remove her headscarf when she was taken to jail.

Jameelah Medina also said she was intimidated by a deputy who accused her of being a terrorist and called Islam an “evil” religion, according to the suit filed Wednesday in U.S. District Court by the American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California.

The suit names the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department and Deputy Craig Roberts of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department.

After determining her ticket was invalid, the officers told her to get off at the next station, where a deputy would be waiting for her. Roberts handcuffed Medina, put her in the back of a police car and began driving her to a jail.

During the ride, Roberts berated Medina and Islam, according to the suit. Roberts “accused Medina of being a terrorist and supporting terrorism. He stated that Muslims are evil … and that the United States was in Iraq at God’s direction to squash evil,” read the suit.

At the West Valley Detention Center in San Bernardino, Medina was forced to remove her headscarf despite several attempts to explain to a female deputy why she wore it, the suit said.

After several hours, Medina was released without being charged or fined, her lawyer said.

Associated Press, 6 December 2007

See also ACLU press release, 6 December 2007