A Georgia judge has just sentenced a Muslim woman to prison because she refused to remove her hijab headscarf in court.
Over the past week, the same judge has banned two Muslim women from the court room for wearing Islamic headscarves. In one case he locked the Muslimah up, prompting an inquiry from the civil rights office at the US Department of Justice.
The Guardian notes that “Judge Keith Rollins of Douglasville, Georgia, yesterday ordered Lisa Valentine, 41, to jail after she refused to remove her scarf before entering the courtroom, citing rules governing appropriate dress. Last week, Sabreen Abdulrahmaan was forced to leave Rollins’s court before her son’s probation hearing because she would not remove her scarf.”
“It’s a religious right,” Valentine explained. “It’s our constitutional right that we can have our religious practices, no matter if it’s a courtroom or not. He’s supposed to be handing out justice, not taking away civil rights.”
Valentine said she sought to accompany her nephew to a traffic hearing yesterday but was told by a court security officer that she could not enter the courtroom with her headscarf on. She said she refused to remove it and turned to leave, saying, “This is bullshit”.
Security officers handcuffed her and brought her before Rollins, who sentenced her to 10 days in jail when she declined to defend her actions at the security checkpoint, her husband Omar Hall said. Valentine, an insurance underwriter, was forced to take off the scarf and don an orange jumpsuit, chained and put aboard a jail bus with men and women.
“It felt like I was naked, because that’s how I feel without my hijab,” Valentine said. “You could have taken off my clothes and it would have felt the same way.”
Her husband called an Islamic civil rights organization to obtain an attorney. She was released without any explanation about seven hours later.
“Judge Keith Rollins has inexplicably, blatantly usurped our innate human rights as American citizens,” Hall stated.
Douglasville police told the Atlanta Journal Constitution that Valentine was jailed for violating a policy barring headgear in the court. Neither court officials nor the police department returned calls seeking comment. Reached by the Associated Press, Rollins declined to comment on Valentine’s case.
“It’s an issue of religious freedom, it’s an issue of access to the American legal system,” Ibrahim Hooper, a spokesman for the Council on American-Islamic Relations, said about the case. “There are all kinds of implications that you can take form this troubling incident.”
The US department of justice says they are reviewing the incident.
The Guardian reports that Hooper told them that Eric Treene, special council for religious discrimination at the justice department’s civil rights division, is examining the case.
“There are a lot of prejudices here,” Abdulrahmaan explained.
Hooper of the Council on American-Islamic Relations noted that this the matter does not just affect Muslims.
“What if you’re a Jewish man wearing a skull cap? What if you’re a Catholic nun wearing a habit?” Hooper said. “All would be denied access to this judge’s courtroom. We need to know what’s going here and why this has apparently been going on for so long.”
(Article by M. David and Reagan Ali; image via YouTube, used for illustrative purposes)