A Muslim woman seeking to contest a simple speeding ticket in this south Georgia city says she was denied access to a municipal courtroom last week for wearing a traditional Islamic head scarf.

Aniisa Karim, 20, said she was stopped after entering Valdosta’s municipal court building Tuesday and told she would not be permitted to enter the courtroom wearing her scarf.

“I said, ‘No, I’m Muslim … I wear this for religious reasons and if you don’t allow me in the courtroom with my scarf on basically you are violating my civil rights and my right to a free religion,’ ” Karim told the Valdosta Daily Times.

Karim said an officer told her the denial was due to “homeland security reasons” and that allowing her to enter would show disrespect to Judge Vernita Lee Bender.

She said she offered to walk through a metal detector and allow officers to use a handheld metal detector to scan the scarf.

A national Islamic civil rights group has taken up the case. In a letter to Georgia Attorney General Thurbert Baker, the Council on American-Islamic Relations asks Baker to “take appropriate action to ensure that the legal, religious and civil rights of Georgians of all faiths be maintained.”

Baker’s office and the Valdosta municipal court were unable to be reached by The Associated Press for comment on Sunday.

Ibrahim Hooper, spokesman for the Washington D.C.-based group, said neither Baker’s office nor the Valdosta city attorney had responded to his group as of Sunday afternoon.

The letter from CAIR argues that barring Karim from the courtroom violated Georgia’s code of conduct for judges and the 1964 Civil Rights Act, which guarantees access to public facilities based on religious beliefs or practices.


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