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CAIR-WA Welcomes New County Policy Allowing Hijab in Jails, Courts

Muslim civil rights group launches new initiative to meet with sheriffs and police chiefs to discuss model policy, introduce Muslim leaders

(SEATTLE, WA, 2/25/13) – The Washington state chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR-WA) today welcomed a new policy in King County that permits Muslim religious headscarves, or hijab, in all jails and courthouses.

Based on CAIR-WA's recommendations, King County has adopted a new policy that also requires pat downs to be performed by an officer of the same gender.

In November 2011, CAIR-WA contacted King County about an incident in which a Muslim woman was forced to remove her headscarf during a one-night stay in jail and was forced to appear in court without it the following morning. Before being booked, the woman was also given a pat down by a male officer while a female officer was present. She described the experience as humiliating and degrading, a similar feeling to being forced to remove all articles of clothing except undergarments in the presence of men.

On January 11, 2013, the new policy was signed into effect by King County Director of the Department of Adult and Juvenile Detention, Claudia Balducci. King County is the first in Washington to adopt new policies that explicitly allow for religious headwear. As it is the largest county in Washington, the new policy will set an example for other counties in the state.

“We are pleased by the decision of King County to allow constitutionally-protected religious freedom in detention centers, jails, and courthouses” said CAIR-WA Civil Rights Coordinator Jennifer Gist. “We look forward to using this model policy to assist other counties and police departments in similarly amending policies on religious headscarves and pat downs.”

Gist said CAIR-WA is launching a new initiative to meet with various sheriffs and police chiefs statewide to discuss the model policy and to introduce key leaders from the Muslim community in their area.

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.

The Muslim civil rights group also publishes a booklet that outlines general information about Islamic beliefs that are relevant to law enforcement agencies.

SEE: A Law Enforcement Official's Guide to the Muslim Community

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-WA Civil Rights Coordinator Jennifer Gist, 206-367-4081, civilrights@wa.cair.com; CAIR National Communications Director Ibrahim Hooper, 202-744-7726, ihooper@cair.com

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