(MINNEAPOLIS, MN, 10/27/11) — The Minnesota chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR-MN) today called on the Sherburne County Sheriff's Office to grant religious accommodation to prisoners who wear the hijab (religious headscarf).
The call from the Washington-based Muslim civil rights and advocacy organization came after a jailed Muslim woman was not allowed to fully exercise her religious rights. Amina Farah Ali is currently unwilling to leave her cell in the Sherburne County Jail because correction officers will not allow her to wear the hijab “despite a judge's assurances to the woman last week in a Minneapolis courtroom that her religious customs would be accommodated.”
SEE: Muslim Woman Can Sue OC Jailers for Making Her Remove Her Headscarf http://laist.com/2011/10/03/oc_jail_headscarf_muslim_lawsuit_su.php
CAIR-MN has asked the Sherburne County Sheriff's Office for an urgent meeting to discuss the situation and negotiate a reasonable religious accommodation.
In a letter sent to Sherburne County officials today, CAIR-MN Civil Rights Director Taneeza Islam wrote:
“A Muslim woman's practice of wearing a headscarf is a sincerely held belief which is a protected exercise of her religion. Asking her to remove her headscarf is asking her to be naked in front of others. A headscarf, unlike a crucifix or other ornament, is not a mere accessory but an essential article of clothing for those Muslim women who practice it.”
Ms. Islam cited the First Amendment right to practice one's religion freely, the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act, Civil Rights of Institutionalized Persons Act, and case law on the issue.
“We understand there may be hypothetical concerns for safety of inmates,” said Ms. Islam. “However, the jail can achieve both safety and religious accommodation by issuing approved headscarves as they do other pieces of clothing.”
CAIR-MN is currently undertaking a project to gather and assess police booking photo policies across the state. The project seeks to educate law enforcement on religious accommodation and the significance of the hijab.
CAIR offers an educational toolkit called “A Correctional Institution's Guide to Islamic Religious Practices,” to help correctional officers gain a better understanding of Islam and Muslims.
CAIR is America's largest Muslim civil liberties and advocacy organization. Its mission is to enhance the understanding of Islam, encourage dialogue, protect civil liberties, empower American Muslims, and build coalitions that promote justice and mutual understanding.
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CONTACT: CAIR-MN Civil Rights Coordinator Munazza Humayun, Esq., 763-227-7650, email@example.com; CAIR-MN Civil Rights Director Taneeza Islam, Esq., 612-367-6024, firstname.lastname@example.org; CAIR-MN President Lori Saroya, 612-327-6700, email@example.com; CAIR National Communications Director Ibrahim Hooper, 202-488-8787, 202-744-7726, firstname.lastname@example.org