US Muslim sues over right to wear head scarf

A Muslim whose religious practice requires that she cover her head in public sued the Orange County Sheriff’s Department on Tuesday, alleging her rights were violated when jail officials forced her to remove a head scarf while locked up for about eight hours.

Souhair Khatib filed suit in U.S. District Court in Santa Ana, alleging that her right to practice her religion had been violated, causing her “extreme mental and emotional distress.” Named in the complaint, filed by the American Civil Liberties Union Foundation of Southern California, were Sheriff Michael S. Carona, the captain in charge of courtroom deputies and Orange County. Khatib, 32, of Anaheim, said she filed the lawsuit to make other Muslim women in the U.S. aware of their right to religious freedom.

ACLU attorney Hector Villagra said jail officials ordered Khatib’s hijab removed because they said it could be used to choke someone. But Villagra said a woman in the holding cell with Khatib was wearing fishnet stockings that were not confiscated and could have also been used as a weapon. The lawsuit seeks unspecified damages and requests that Orange County Jail officials allow the use of religious head coverings.

Los Angeles Times, 5 September 2007