// U.S. Judge Jails Muslim Woman who Refuses to Take off Her Head Scarf
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« on: Dec 18, 2008 04:27 AM »


U.S. judge jails Muslim woman over head scarf
Ga. resident refused to remove hijab at court's security checkpoint
Image: Lisa Valentine
   
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updated 1:48 p.m. CT, Wed., Dec. 17, 2008

DOUGLASVILLE, Ga. - A judge ordered a Muslim woman arrested Tuesday for contempt of court for refusing to take off her head scarf at a security checkpoint.

The judge ordered Lisa Valentine, 40, to serve 10 days in jail, said police in Douglasville, a city of about 20,000 people on Atlanta's west suburban outskirts.

Valentine violated a court policy that prohibits people from wearing any headgear in court, police said.
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The Washington-based Council on American-Islamic Relations urged federal authorities to investigate the incident as well as others in Georgia.

"I just felt stripped of my civil, my human rights," Valentine told The Associated Press on Wednesday from her home, after she said she was unexpectedly released once CAIR got involved. Jail officials declined to say why she was freed.

No comment from judge
Municipal Court Judge Keith Rollins said that "it would not be appropriate" for him to comment on the case.

Last year, a judge in Valdosta in southern Georgia barred a Muslim woman from entering a courtroom because she would not remove her head scarf. There have been similar cases in other states, including Michigan, where a Muslim woman in Detroit filed a federal lawsuit in February 2007 after a judge dismissed her small-claims court case when she refused to remove a head and face veil.

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Valentine's husband, Omar Hall, said his wife was accompanying her nephew to a traffic citation hearing when officials stopped her at the metal detector and told her she would not be allowed in the courtroom with the head scarf, known as a hijab.

Hall said Valentine, an insurance underwriter, told the bailiff that she had been in courtrooms before with the scarf on and that removing it would be a religious violation. When she turned to leave and uttered an expletive, Hall said a bailiff handcuffed her and took her before the judge.
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« Reply #1 on: Dec 18, 2008 07:26 PM »

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

CAIR Seeks Sanctions Against Anti-Hijab Judge in Georgia
State attorney general asked to protect religious, legal rights

(WASHINGTON, D.C., 12/17/08) A prominent national Islamic civil rights and advocacy group today called on Georgia Attorney General Thurbert E. Baker to bring sanctions against a judge in that state who has repeatedly barred Muslim women wearing religiously-mandated headscarves, or hijabs, from entering his courtroom.

Yesterday, the Washington-based Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) reported that a Muslim woman was jailed and then released following a dispute over whether she could enter the judge’s courtroom in Douglasville, Ga., while wearing her hijab. In the past year, other Muslim women have either been jailed under similar circumstances or barred from that judge’s court.

Today’s Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported:

    “Lisa Valentine, also known by her Islamic name, Miedah, 40, was arrested at the Douglasville Municipal Court for violating a court policy of no headgear, said Chris Womack, deputy chief of operations for the Douglasville police.

    “Judge Keith Rollins ordered her held in jail for 10 days, but she was released Tuesday evening. The reason for the early release wasn’t immediately clear…

    “Other Muslim women said the same judge has ordered them to remove their hijabs.

    “Sabreen Abdul Rahman, 55, said she was asked to take off her scarf when she went to the municipal court last week with her son. ‘I can’t. I’m Muslim,’ she mouthed silently to the bailiff, who then removed her from the courtroom, Rahman said…

    “Halimah Abdullah, 43, said she spent 24 hours in jail in November 2007 after Rollins held her in contempt of court for refusing to remove her head covering. Rollins could not be reached for comment.”

SEE: Muslim’s Scarf Leads to Arrest at Courthouse (Atlanta Journal)

In a letter sent today to Attorney General Baker, CAIR National Legal Counsel Nadhira F. Al-Khalili wrote in part:

    “We assert that Judge Rollins’ actions violate the Georgia Code of Judicial Conduct…It is also our contention that a courtroom is a ‘public facility’ under Title III of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and denial of access to the courtroom based on religious beliefs or practices is therefore discriminatory.

    “In addition, we believe Judge Rollins’ actions are in violation of First and Fourteenth Amendment rights to freedom of religion and equal protection under the law. The United States Supreme Court has held that a state may not infringe upon the free exercise of a citizen's religious observance absent a compelling state interest.We believe that no such compelling interest exists in these cases.

    “Judge Rollins’ policy of exclusion would prohibit court entry to all Sikh men wearing turbans, all orthodox Jewish men and women wearing yarmulkes or head scarves, all Christian women wearing religious head coverings, and all Muslim men and women who wear skullcaps or scarves…

    “I would therefore respectfully request that you take appropriate action to ensure that the legal, religious and civil rights of Georgians of all faiths be maintained. I would also request a formal investigation into this matter, sanctions where appropriate, and an assurance that all those wearing religious attire be allowed in state courtrooms.”

A copy of the letter was sent to the Judicial District Professionalism Program of the State Bar of Georgia.

CAIR also contacted the U.S. Department of Justice, which now says it is looking into the case.

CAIR, America's largest Islamic civil liberties group, has 35 offices and chapters nationwide and in Canada. Its mission is to enhance the understanding of Islam, encourage dialogue, protect civil liberties, empower American Muslims, and build coalitions that promote justice and mutual understanding.

- END -

CONTACT: CAIR-Georgia Executive Director Yusuf Burke, 404-542-1209, E-Mail: yburke@cair.com; CAIR National Communications Director Ibrahim Hooper, 202-488-8787 or 202-744-7726, E-Mail: ihooper@cair.com; CAIR Communications Coordinator Amina Rubin, 202-488-8787, E-Mail: arubin@cair.com
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