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American Muslim woman wins $85,000 in compensation after police remove her hijab

Police officers forcibly removed her hijab while she was in their custody.

Police officers forcibly removed her hijab while she was in their custody.

An American Muslim woman has won a lawsuit and $85,000 in compensation in Long Beach, California after police officers forcibly removed her hijab while she was in their custody.

When Kirsty Powell and her husband were pulled over for driving a low-rider vehicle in 2015, police found minor misdemeanor warrants in her name.

Powell was unaware of a warrant issued for a 2002 petty theft offence, whilst the other warrants were issued after Powell’s sister had falsely used her name, according to the federal lawsuit.

Despite her husband asking that she be arrested by a female officer, male officers arrested her and demanded that she remove her hijab. Her publically available booking photo was taken without her headscarf, and she thereafter spent the night in prison without it until her husband posted the bond.

“There really is no justification for taking off a person’s religious headgear,” said Powell’s attorney, Marwa Rifahie.

The lawsuit states:

“As a result of the foregoing deprivations of the free exercise of her religion, Kirsty Powell suffered severe discomfort, humiliation, and emotional distress… She cried throughout the ordeal and experienced humiliation when both her religious beliefs and personal integrity were violated.”

The department has since changed its policy on religious headwear. It now states that only female officers can remove headscarves, away from male officers and inmates.

“We commend Kirsty Powell for choosing to defend her right to religious freedom and taking action,” the Council of American-Islamic Relations said in a statement.

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