Settlement reached on behalf of Muslim woman who had her hijab forcibly removed by police

The Michigan chapter of Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR-MI) on Thursday announced that a settlement has been reached with the city of Ferndale for the Ferndale Police Department’s forcible removal of a Muslim woman’s hijab (Islamic head scarf) for a booking photo following her arrest at a traffic stop in 2021.
CAIR-MI said that the city of Ferndale and Bowe have reached a full and satisfactory settlement of this matter that involved the city instituting new policies allowing Muslim women to maintain their hijab when a booking photo is taken and prohibiting cross-gender searches in the absence of an emergency as well as a monetary settlement.

“We are pleased to announce this settlement and believe that the policies that Ferndale has put in place will help protect the religious rights of Muslim women who may find themselves in their custody,” said CAIR-MI Staff Attorney Amy V. Doukoure. “It is important to remember that the Constitution was written to protect those who are most vulnerable, and many of the rights protected by the Bill of Rights were enacted to safeguard our freedoms, specifically during interactions with law enforcement. Religious freedoms remain intact, even when facing arrest or incarceration.”

She noted that CAIR’s national office offers educational booklets, called “A Correctional Institution’s Guide to Islamic Religious Practices,” and “A Law Enforcement Official’s Guide to the Muslim Community,” to help law enforcement authorities gain a better understanding of Islam and Muslims.  

The city of Ferndale Police Department initiated a traffic stop of an African-American Muslim woman, Helana Bowe, while she was travelling eastbound on 8-mile road inside the city of Detroit.  

Bowe was subsequently arrested at that traffic stop and transported to the city of Ferndale Police Department where she was subjected to a cross-gender search by a male officer and was forced to remove her hijab for a booking photograph that was then made available to the public.

In October 2021, CAIR-MI filed a lawsuit in federal district court on behalf of Bowe alleging that Ferndale had violated her rights under the U.S. Constitution as well as the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (RLUIPA).


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