Lawsuit: NYPD Forced Muslim Woman To Remove Her Hijab For Mugshot

| by Amanda Andrade-Rhoades
women with hijabswomen with hijabs

Mervat Soliman was arrested by NYPD officers last January after she got into a spat with her neighbor over a parking spot. Now she’s suing the City of New York and its police department for allegedly violating her civil rights by forcing her to remove her hijab, a head covering typically used by Muslim women, for her mugshot.

Soliman's arrest occurred after her neighbor allegedly took the spot Soliman’s husband had saved for her, called her an “a**hole” and a "terrorist," and told her to go back to her own country, Courthouse News reported. The neighbor's daughter then allegedly exited her car and knocked Soliman out.

Soliman, 53, claims an officer removed her hijab when she was taken to Wyckoff Hospital in an ambulance and refused to return it to her. A nurse gave her a pillow case to cover her head, the lawsuit claims, according to the NY Daily News. Soliman’s hijab was returned to her when she was booked, but she was forced to remove it for her mug shot.

Soliman said being forced to remove her hijab for the mugshot was exposing.

"I feel like somebody took all my clothes off,” she told the NY Daily News.

According to the suit, which was filed on Monday, Soliman asked for her head scarf back, but officers replied, “This is America, we don’t care.”

Soliman’s request to be photographed by a female officer in a private room was also allegedly refused.

An NYPD spokesperson said that suspects can’t refuse to remove their religious head coverings but can request to be photographed privately. Though NYPD hasn’t commented on the lawsuit, Soliman is seeking punitive damages for civil rights violations and an order declaring that forcing her to remove her scarf violated her constitutional rights.

She also seeks new guidelines for NYPD officers dealing with Muslims.

Sources: Courthouse News, NY Daily News

Photo Credit: Haifeez/Flickr, rana ossama/Flickr