World

U.S. woman forced to remove hijab in jail receives $120K settlement

A Muslim woman from Minnesota has received a $120,000 US settlement after she was forced to remove her hijab and clothing in front of jailers.

Experience that started with a traffic offence called 'humiliating and harmful'

Aida Shyef Al-Kadi spoke at the Minneapolis headquarters of the Council on American-Islamic Relations alongside her attorneys to announce the settlement. (CAIR-Minnesota/Facebook)

A Minnesota Muslim woman has received $120,000 US to settle her lawsuit alleging she was forced to strip in jail and remove her hijab for a booking photo over a traffic offence, the woman and her attorneys said Tuesday.

Aida Shyef Al-Kadi, of St. Louis Park, appeared with her attorneys at the Minneapolis headquarters of the Council on American-Islamic Relations to announce the settlement approved last month by U.S. District Judge John Tunheim.

Al-Kadi, 57, said her treatment at the Ramsey County jail in August 2013 was "one of the most humiliating and harmful experiences" of her life.

"I knew that I did not want any other Muslim woman to experience what I did," she said.

A judge issued a warrant for Al-Kadi's arrest after she missed a court hearing over a traffic offence while taking her daughter to the hospital, according to local media.

As a part of the settlement the jail has established rules about how to accommodate inmates with religious headwear when taking booking photos. The county also agreed to destroy all hard copies and delete any electronic copies of Al-Kadi's booking photo.

The settlement does not require the county to admit any wrongdoing. In her lawsuit, Al-Kadi argued that the county violated her constitutional rights and discriminated against her for her religious beliefs.

Al-Kadi was born and raised in Ohio. She moved to Minnesota in 2005 so her daughter could receive specialized medical care.

When Al-Kadi turned herself in, she said she was told to remove her hijab and abaya, a long dress that covered her body, in front of male jailers. When she objected, she said she was removed from the area and taken to a holding cell, where she removed her hijab in front of a male jailer.

Photo on third-party website

After being told that her booking photo would never be released to the public, she said she agreed to remove her headscarf. But months later, she found it on a third-party website that charges people to take down the photos.

After taking the photo, officers gave her a bedsheet to use as a hijab. Al-Kadi was eventually told to remove her abaya and change into a jail uniform, while two female officers watched her.

Ramsey County policy says that misdemeanour inmates such as Al-Kadi "will not be viewed without clothing," according to court records.

In 2014, the county revised its jail policies to include that inmates who wear hijabs will not be forced to remove them in front of men. A facility-approved hijab will be provided. Sheriff spokesman Roy Magnuson said bedsheets are no longer used.