(SOUTHFIELD, MI, 8/25/09) – On August 26, the Michigan chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR-MI) will hold a news conference in Southfield to announce the filing of a federal lawsuit against a Wayne County judge who demanded that a Muslim woman remove her religious headscarf (hijab) in court. The Muslim plaintiff felt so intimidated by the judge’s repeated demand that she eventually removed her headscarf.
CAIR-MI is a co-plaintiff in the lawsuit being filed on behalf of the Michigan woman, who is a member of CAIR.
“The judge’s actions contradict both the constitutional right to freedom of religion and President Obama’s recent statement in support of the right to wear hijab,” said CAIR-MI Attorney Melanie Elturk. “This judge targeted a Muslim woman’s religious attire, but he could just as easily have demanded the removal of a Sikh turban, Jewish yarmulke or a Catholic nun’s habit.” In President Obama’s June address to Muslims worldwide, he stated: “[F]reedom in America is indivisible from the freedom to practice one’s religion…That is why the U.S. government has gone to court to protect the right of women and girls to wear the hijab, and to punish those who would deny it.”
The judge’s demand came one month after the Michigan Supreme Court voted to give judges full discretion over courtroom attire. At that time, CAIR called for clarification of the new administrative rule and said that, if broadly interpreted, it might allow judges to demand that witnesses remove religious head coverings during testimony.