Muslim Forced To Remove Hijab For Mugshot, Wins Massive Settlement

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While being booked at a county jail following a warrant for her arrest, a Muslim woman was required to remove her hijab for the mugshot. However, after claiming the experience was “humiliating and harmful,” she was awarded a huge payout.

Aida Shyef Al Kadi
Aida Shyef Al-Kadi (right) was forced to remove her hijab while being booked at Ramsey County Jail. (Photo Credit: Screenshot)

Minnesota resident Aida Shyef Al-Kadi, 57, earned herself a traffic citation for driving without a license, opting to plead her case in court instead of paying the ticket. Once her court date arrived, however, she never showed up, claiming that she had to take her daughter to the hospital for an emergency that same hour, according to HuffPost.

Expectedly, the judge issued a warrant for her arrest, ensuring that she would face justice sooner or later. Two months after the order, Al-Kadi decided to turn herself in and face the music. Immediately, county officers were summoned to book her for her active arrest warrant.

Aida Shyef Al-Kadi claims that Ramsey County officials violated her religious rights. (Photo Credit: Screenshot)

While being processed at the Ramsey County Jail, officers ordered Al-Kadi to remove her hijab and the long, loose abaya shawl draped over her clothing. As a devout Muslim woman, Al-Kadi refused, citing the male officers who would see her hair. As such, she alleges that the jailers yanked her into a holding cell.

Al-Kadi finally agreed to take off her headscarf for the booking photo only after the officers promised that the picture wouldn’t be released to the public. She complains that she was then given a piece of material that resembled a bedsheet to use as a hijab. After a 23-hour stay for “argumentative behavior,” Al-Kadi was released.

“They did it in such a way that was a humiliation, tossing the sheet to me as they yanked my hijab off,” Al-Kadi said.

Aida Shyef Al Kadi
Aida Shyef Al-Kadi secured the assistance of CAIR and the volunteer-based Pro Se Project to plead her case. (Photo Credit: Screenshot)

Upset over the incident, Al-Kadi secured the assistance of the Council on American-Islamic Relations and the volunteer-based organization Pro Se Project to sue the county. When her case was dismissed by the Minnesota Department of Human Rights, Al-Kadi took her grievance to a local court.

After claiming religious discrimination, Al-Kadi was awarded a whopping $120,000 settlement. However, that wasn’t all. For her efforts, the county has agreed to destroy all existing copies of her mugshot and to train corrections officers on how to properly offer religious accommodations to inmates.

“We believe that this settlement agreement is fair and in the best interests of all of our residents,” Ramsey County board chair Jim McDonough said in a statement to Minnesota Public Radio. “The county board looks forward to updates from the sheriff’s office as implementation of these practices continues.”

Aida Shyef Al Kadi
Lawyer Caitlinrose Fisher (center) helped Aida Shyef Al-Kadi (right) win a $120,000 settlement with the county. (Photo Credit: Screenshot)

Pro bono lawyer Caitlinrose Fisher gushed over Al-Kadi’s efforts, lauding the settlement as a major win for religious rights.

“She made it clear from the beginning that this case wasn’t about looking backward, it was about looking forward and standing up not only for herself, but for the broader Muslim community; and standing up for the broader Muslim community is precisely what Ms. Al-Kadi did,” Fisher said at the press conference.

Additionally, inmates who wear the hijab will not be required to remove their scarves in front of male officers. So far, this policy doesn’t seem to specify into which category transgender officers fall.

The county is now prohibited from ordering Muslim women to remove their hijabs for booking photos. (Photo Credit: Screenshot)

Thanks to Al-Kadi’s complaint, the county jail no longer requires Muslim women to remove their hijabs for booking photos. However, there is no telling whether the niqab, a face-covering veil showing only the eyes, will also become an issue.

Al-Kadi’s booking photo has since been seemingly scrubbed from the internet. However, if she only would have followed the law and driven with a valid license, she never would’ve had to remove her hijab and the county wouldn’t have to foot the bill.