(WASHINGTON, D.C., 3/14/13) — The nation's largest Muslim civil rights and advocacy organization today welcomed a decision by a South Carolina jail to allow female inmates to wear religious head coverings, called “hijab.”
The Washington-based Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) made the request for a policy change following a complaint from a Muslim woman who was taken into custody on December 31, 2012, and was allegedly told to remove her hijab so she could have her booking photograph taken. The booking officer reportedly disregarded the woman's religious concerns and “intimidated” her into removing her scarf in the presence of a male officer. The Muslim inmate's husband was allegedly informed that “all Muslim women take off their scarves” when in custody.
In a letter to CAIR, Ronaldo D. Myers, director of the Alvin S. Glenn Detention Center in Columbia, S.C., wrote:
“As requested, we have reviewed and updated our policies to ensure clarity with our staff on the processing and searching of female detainees of the Muslim faith, and specifically have exempted the wearing of religious headwear from our facility's 'Prohibited Acts' policy.”
“We welcome the detention center's decision to allow detainees to exercise their constitutionally-protected religious freedom,” said CAIR National Legal Director Nadhira Al-Khalili. “We have recently received reports of denial of religious rights at correctional institutions in other states and are working to achieve similarly positive resolutions in those cases.”
She said 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.
Earlier this year, the CAIR's Washington state chapter welcomed a new policy in King County that permits hijab in all jails and courthouses.
Last year, CAIR's St. Louis chapter thanked county and law enforcement officials for agreeing to provide religious accommodation for Muslim women who wear hijab and are held in the St. Louis County Jail in Clayton, Mo.
CAIR's Minnesota chapter helped resolve a similar case in which a Muslim woman sought to exercise her religious rights while in jail.
In 2011, the U.S. Supreme Court refused to overturn a lower court ruling that said a Muslim woman “had the right to wear the scarf unless jailers could show it was a security risk.”
In that case, the Muslim woman's suit cited the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (RLUIPA), which prohibits state and local governments from imposing “a substantial burden on the religious exercise of a person residing in or confined to an institution.”
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 National Legal Counsel Nadhira Al-Khalili, 202-646-6034, firstname.lastname@example.org; CAIR National Communications Director Ibrahim Hooper, 202-744-7726, email@example.com; CAIR Communications Manager Amina Rubin, 202-488-8787, 202-341-4171, firstname.lastname@example.org