OKLAHOMA CITY — A police officer in the small eastern Oklahoma town of Webbers Falls was fired and another was demoted after a Muslim woman claimed they harassed her about her religion during a traffic stop in November, a town official confirmed Thursday.

The town’s council members agreed to fire officer James Wagoner and demote Capt. Joe Garrett after a complaint was filed against them by Nadiah Yusuf, a kindergarten teacher from Little Rock.

The actions against the two officers were detailed in a letter council members sent to Yusuf. A copy of the letter was obtained by The Associated Press. Councilman Richard Cude confirmed the actions.

“That’s what we agreed on at the last council meeting,” Cude said. “If they did wrong, I think they should be punished.”

Yusuf, a Muslim who was wearing a hijab, or head scarf, said she was stopped for speeding along Interstate 40 on Nov. 4 while returning from a teacher’s conference in Tulsa, Okla. Five colleagues were in the car with Yusuf.

She claimed Garrett and Wagoner repeatedly questioned her about her religion and Garrett asked her if she had any connection to the “guy who flew the plane into the building.”

Yusuf, 36, said the officers also questioned her about whether there was a Quran, Islam’s holy book, in her car.

One of the officers shouted, “Look what I found,” when he discovered a book with Arabic script in the car, Yusuf said.

“I was very nervous, because I felt they were badgering me and didn’t know what to say,” Yusuf said. “One had his hand on his gun the whole time. We all thought they were going to take us to jail. It was a very frightening, traumatic experience.” . . .

Officials with the Council on American-Islamic Relations, a Washington-based Islamic civil liberties group, said they were pleased with the town’s actions.

“We thank city officials for taking appropriate actions to resolve this disturbing incident,” said Khadija Athman, a CAIR civil rights manager. “Police officers have a duty to protect the public, but they do not have the right to go beyond their constitutional authority in questioning a suspect.”

In nearby Muskogee, Okla., in 2003, the school district suspended an 11-year-old Muslim girl for wearing a head scarf to school. A lawsuit was filed on the girl’s behalf, and the district agreed to pay an undisclosed amount of money and change its dress code to allow students to wear religious headgear.


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