A 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.
The suit, filed Dec. 5 in U.S. District Court by the American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California, names the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department and Deputy Craig Roberts of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department.
Jameela Medina, 29, a Ph. D student at Claremont Graduate University, was riding a commuter train from San Bernardino to the California State University, Los Angeles station on Dec. 7, 2005, when she was arrested for having an invalid ticket.
Roberts handcuffed Medina, put her in the back of a police car and began driving her to a jail. 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.
The suit seeks unspecified damages and attorney fees.
Medina’s lawyer if the federal prison allowed for inmates to wear the hijab, the san Bernardino facility should as well.
Hussam Ayloush, executive director of the Southern California chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, said authorities often see women with their heads covered the same way “as a male’s choice to wear a baseball cap,” Ayloush said. “This is not the case. For Muslim woman who wear the hijab, it’s their total belief that this is a religion requirement.”