(MINNEAPOLIS, MN, 6/26/2019) – The Minnesota chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR-MN) today welcomed a decision by District Court Chief Judge John R. Tunheim to allow a religious discrimination case against Ramsey County to move forward.
Ramsey County jail is accused of subjecting 56-year-old Aida Shyef Al-Kadi, a Muslim female, to discriminatory treatment in August 2013. The jail required Al-Kadi to remove her hijab, a religious head scarf worn for modesty, in front of a male officer for a photograph. This photograph became a public record and its release on request by members of the public exposes Al-Kadi to ongoing infringements of her religious right to wear hijab in public.
When Al-Kadi expressed her religious concerns to jail staff, she was punished with a 23-hour solitary confinement. Judge Tunheim noted that “the key question in this case is whether Al-Kadi’s ‘noncompliance’ consisted of anything more than a request for a religious accommodation.”
He further observed that the evidence “supports Al-Kadi’s allegations that she was singled out, given less freedom, and subject to more vigilance” based on her religion.
SEE: Muslim woman's suit accusing Ramsey County jail of violating religious beliefs survives challenge: Muslim woman, Ramsey County jail can go trial
Judge allows Muslim woman to proceed with lawsuit against Ramsey County jail
Al-Kadi approached CAIR-MN in September 2013 for assistance after the incident. CAIR-MN obtained official records documenting the events and filed charges with the Minnesota Department of Human Rights (MDHR) on Al-Kadi’s behalf.
In 2016, the MDHR determined there was no probable cause, which CAIR-MN immediately appealed. When the MDHR affirmed its finding again, Al-Kadi filed a pro se lawsuit in federal court against Ramsey County. The federal court assigned her case to attorneys Caitlinrose Fisher and Virginia McCalmont.
In March 2014, Hennepin County announced a new policy regarding religious head coverings for detainees. According to that policy, detainees are not required to remove their head coverings in front of the opposite gender, and they may wear a head covering when photographed.
According to Roy Magnuson, public information officer for the Ramsey County Sheriff’s Office, Ramsey County’s policy has also changed. The current policy is that two photographs will be taken of detainees observing religious dress customs. The first is taken without the head covering and is kept confidential. The second is taken with a jail-issued head covering and is subject to public information requests for release.
Such policy changes reflect a recognition that Minnesotans—regardless of creed—have fundamental rights under the United States and Minnesota Constitutions that cannot be violated. However, these policy changes come too late for Al-Kadi.
According to Judge Tunheim, if Al-Kadi succeeds at trial, she will add to the Eighth Circuit’s growing precedent of recognizing that “detainees have a constitutional right not to be punished for exercising their constitutional rights.”
CAIR’s mission is to protect civil rights, enhance understanding of Islam, promote justice, and empower American Muslims.
La misión de CAIR es proteger las libertades civiles, mejorar la comprensión del Islam, promover la justicia, y empoderar a los musulmanes en los Estados Unidos.
CONTACT: CAIR-MN Executive Director Jaylani Hussein, 612-406-0070, firstname.lastname@example.org; CAIR-MN Civil Rights Attorney Ellen Longfellow, Esq., 612-206-3360, email@example.com; CAIR National Communications Director Ibrahim Hooper, 202-488-8787, firstname.lastname@example.org