Heights woman, police department settle hijab lawsuit

Times-Herald Newspapers

HEIGHTS – The Police Department announced last week it will change its policy for women who wear the hijab, a religious headscarf, after settling a lawsuit filed earlier this year.

The policy will no longer require Muslim women to remove their hijab during the booking process and a female officer will be present to search and pat down a woman who wears the hijab in a separate room before taking the booking photo.

As part of the policy, the hijab can remain on women during the booking photo and Muslim women will be provided an alternative head covering while they are in the jail.

“This new policy is in the best interest of the community and department,” Police Chief Lee Gavin said. “We believe this is a fair adjustment to the policy that provides the rights given to residents in this country.”

Amir Makled, an attorney on Malak Kazan’s case said the new policy is a good compromise between honoring religious beliefs and honoring the department’s safety rules.

“This change in the policy should encourage other police departments to follow suit,” he said. “Malak is very happy that the issue is resolved and is happy that her story helped changed the policy for future Muslim women who may be arrested.”

The federal lawsuit was filed on Jan. 22 against the city and its police department claiming she was forced to remove her hijab during her booking photo.

Kazan was arrested by police last July for driving with a suspended license.

In the filed lawsuit, Kazan said she was taken to the police station and during her booking she was asked to take off her hijab for her booking photo.

She told the male police officers that she couldn’t remove her hijab because it would violate her religious beliefs.

Kazam also asked for a female officer but was told one couldn’t be provided for her and said that she wasn’t allowed to put her hijab back on while she was in police custody.

The agreement between the parties was reached after months of discussions.

A joint statement was also released by Kazan, her attorneys Makled and Cyril Hall and the city regarding the issue and new policy.

“Ms. Kazan and her attorneys are very pleased with City of Dearborn Heights Mayor Daniel Paletko’s continued approach of progressive fairness to ensure that all of the citizenry of the City of Dearborn Heights has their civil and constitutional rights protected,” the statement read. “Similarly, Ms. Kazan and her attorneys state they are confident in Police Chief Lee Gavin’s proactive approach to the protection of the citizens of Dearborn Heights and appreciate the continued professionalism exhibited by the Dearborn Heights Police Department.”

On June 30, Maha Aldhalimi of Dearborn filed a similar lawsuit against the city of Dearborn, Police Chief Ronald Haddad and specific police officers.
Aldhalimi said she was arrested in September in Dearborn, and during the booking process at the Dearborn Police Department was forced to remove her hijab for her booking photo in front of male officers.

The Dearborn police policy says the department must provide a female police officer when a woman wearing a hijab is being booked, which Aldhalimi said she was denied.

(Zeinab Najm can be reached at zeinabnajm92@gmail.com.)