Detroit Muslim Woman Sues After Being Told To Remove Hijab in Court

250px-Kalkan_market_2Raneen Albaghdady, a Muslim in Detroit, is suing ayne Circuit Judge J. William Callahan who told her to remove her hijab or scarf in his courtroom (like the one shown to the left of a different woman). She alleges denial of her freedom of religion as well as denial of access to the courts. She is also suing Wayne County.

The demand by Judge Callahan, in my view, was manifestly wrong and unnecessary. However, there does appear to be a disconnect between the alleged injury in the complaint and the attitude of Albaghdady in the court videotape. In a press conference, Albaghdady protested that “I was hurt, the way he treated me. I was really, really scared and terrified.” She spoke of the humiliation and shame of that moment when she appeared before the court for a name-changing hearing.

Yet, while it is not audible on the video, Albaghdady does not raise religious objections or even strongly object in her exchange with the court:

Callahan: “The headpiece…
Albaghdady: “I’m sorry?”
Callahan: “No hats allowed in the courtroom.”
Man seated in the courtroom: “It’s not a hat. It’s a scarf.”
Callahan: “Excuse me, sir.”
Albaghdady: “This one?”
Callahan: “No hats allowed in the courtroom.”
Albaghdady: “This one?”
Callahan: “Yes.”
Albaghdady: “OK. It doesn’t matter.”

“OK, it doesn’t matter” is not the strongest basis for such damages. Moreover, while her lawyers insist that she was intimidated and (as an Iraqi immigrant) is a bit fearful of any judge, Albaghdady later strongly argues with Callahan over a question of her application. Callahan appears otherwise respectful and could claim that, absent a religious objection, scarves should be removed and some people have no objection.

The tape makes this case all the more interesting. Albaghdady seems correct on the religious-based claim, but does not come across as the best claimant.

This is not the first court to face such a challenge over the removal of a hijab, here. Indeed in Michigan there has been prior litigation over the requirement to remove a veil, here.

Assuming it is the same judge, “Bill” Callahan was given the “Judge of the Year” award in 1996, here.

For the full story, click here and here.

11 thoughts on “Detroit Muslim Woman Sues After Being Told To Remove Hijab in Court”

  1. I reside in New York City and have been in courts plenty of times, where Jewish men wear their yarmulkes in the court rooms; I guess too many of them are lawyers & judges anyway to have to remove their headgears.

  2. Hey, when western women go to Arab lands, they have to cover up. Your’re in Rome people, do as we Romans do. If you don’t like the way we are here, go somewhere else.

    The issue is that Islam is so much more than a religion. This is just one more little way that it worms it’s way into our courts. And it was never made clear what happened. Did the judge insist that she remove her scarf? Or did he relent and let her keep it on?

  3. The rules are the rules. We all have to sometimes do things we don’t want to do. America is under Western Law not Sharia Law. America doesn’t have to bend over backwards to suit anyone’s “religious needs”. Stop crying. If Islam can’t be fully compatible with Western Law then it needs to go elsewhere.

  4. A little late, but…

    Aren’t there precedents for nun’s habits and the kippah/yarmulke in court?

    What on earth was this judge thinking asking this woman to remove her headscarf? Seriously, what was he thinking?

    (Regarding the French ban, it was a fairly uniform ban on wearing overt religious symbols in what we might call “public spaces” (including public schools) in order to establish a kind of secular neutrality to these public gatherings and activities. While it’s a very different approach than we have in the US (limited freedom from religiosity, as opposed to a general freedom of or right to religiosity) it’s pretty even handed and consistent, banning overt Christian crosses, Jewish kippot/yarmulkes and Islamic head scarves alike.)

  5. The judge in this case is wild. Very wild. Makes you think you are West of the Pecos’.

  6. I believe that thinking Republicans can blame this legal mess on the late Ted Kennedy. If he hadn’t pushed through immigration reform in 1965, we wouldn’t have had to deal with so many immigrants from the Middle East and these culture clashes would have been avoided. We need to return to our western European Protestant roots. Where’s my gun?

  7. Heckuva Job , Wayne County!
    Good thing Michigan is just rolling in money to pay off lawsuits like these…maybe someone should tell the judge about the unemployment rate in that state.

  8. This is sick. To a devout Muslim woman who wears the hijab, this akin to being asked to strip. Really.

    This judge should be ashamed of himself, and the court system really should codify an exemption for the hijab. Especially in Michigan, if this continues to be a problem there. The hijab is not, in a shape, fashion or form, a hat!

    Americans can be both ignorant and arrogant on this issue (along with the French). They tend not to understand the religious and spiritual implications of wearing the hijab.

    Lastly, we wonder why so many in Islamic countries hate America. If we only knew how this kind of story would be viewed there, we wouldn’t have to wonder very long.

  9. I’m of two minds about this issue, but I do know that I have a couple of questions that I don’t think most Americans have had to deal with on a regular basis.

    Have you ever been told by someone in a position of authority to do something that would violate the tenants of your religion? Have you ever had to try to explain to someone who didn’t share your beliefs why you couldn’t follow a simple request?

  10. Albaghdady: “OK. It doesn’t matter.”

    JT -what video did you watch? The embedded video contains no such comment.

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