Aida Shyef Al Kadi, an American Muslim woman, couldn’t attend her court hearing for a traffic violation because she had to take her child to the hospital to receive special medical care. The judge issued an arrest warrant against her.
Al Kadi turned herself in and was going to appeal to the court to explain her circumstances. But what happened next was something she never expected.
She was ordered to remove her Hijab and her Abaya in front of male jailers at the Jail for her mugshots.
An Abaya is a loose robe like garment and a Hijab is a head covering worn by Muslim women, the women that choose to wear them do not take them off in front of any men that are not part of their immediate family.
At first Al Kadi refused to take them off but was allowed to remove them in a separate room with one male jailer present. She agreed to take off the religious clothing after the Jailers assured her that her photographs would not be uploaded to the internet.
After the mugshots were taken, she was given a bed-sheet to cover herself back up with.
“A bed-sheet belongs on a bed … not a human being”Aida Shyef Al Kadi
She was also placed under solitary confinement for almost a whole day for complaining to the jail staff.
A few months later, she found her mugshots on a third party website that requires people to pay for their photos to be removed. At this point, Aida Shyef Al Kadi filed a lawsuit against the County in the US District court for violating her constitutional rights and for religious discussion.
She said that the way she was treated “was one of the most humiliating and harmful experiences of my life … I knew that I did not want any other Muslim woman to experience what I did”. She wanted to make sure that this doesn’t go unnoticed.
She won the lawsuit and has received a $120,000 settlement.
US District Judge John Tunheim said that the evidence supported Al-Kadis claims and he agreed that she was singled out, given less freedom and was subject to more vigilance based on her religion.
America is supposed to have religious freedom for everyone. Forcing a woman to take off her religious coverings in front of men is unacceptable and it should never have happened. I’m really glad that she raised her voice and stood up for other women too.
Since the incident, new policies have been passed that no longer require women to take off their hijabs in front of male jailers and women who don’t want to take it off at all can have their mugshots taken with only their hairline showing, still covering the rest of their head, ears and neck.
Sometimes things happen to us that really shake us, but we feel like we can’t say anything because no one will listen, our inner voice says “I can’t fight this” but that shouldn’t stop any of us.
All it takes is one person to start. Speak up. Maybe your voice will be the one that makes the world a little better for the rest of us.