A Minnesota Muslim woman recently received $120,000 to settle a lawsuit she filed against Ramsey County claiming the county “violated her constitutional rights and discriminated against her for her religious beliefs” by forcing her to remove her hijab in front of a male jail guard.
Aida Shyef Al-Kadi, 57, was arrested back in 2013 after she missed a court hearing over a traffic offense while taking her daughter to the hospital. Two months later, Al-Kadi turned herself in. Upon arriving at the jail, she was told to remove her hijab and abaya—a long dress that covers her body. The Muslim woman refused and a jailer took her to a holding cell.
When time came for her booking photo to be taken, she said she agreed to remove her hijab after being told the picture would never be released to the public. After taking the photo, the officers gave her a bedsheet to use as a hijab. She was eventually told to take off her abaya and change into a jail uniform.
Al-Kadi was then kept in her cell for 23 hours for her “argumentative behavior,” a jailer later wrote. The next day she went before a Ramsey County judge, resolved her arrest warrant and was released, according to Star Tribune.
After being released, Al-Kadi filed a lawsuit against the Ramsey County jail, as she found her treatment was “one of the most humiliating and harmful experiences” of her life. The woman said she later found her booking photo on a third-party website that charges users to take down the photos.
Al-Kadi appeared with her attorneys at the Minneapolis headquarters of the Council on American-Islamic Relations on Tuesday, Dec. 17, to announce the settlement approved late last month in U.S. District Court by Judge John Tunheim.
“I knew that I did not want any other Muslim woman to experience what I did,” she said.
Under the settlement, the jail has put in place specific rules about how to accommodate inmates with religious headwear when taking booking photos. The county also agreed to destroy all hard copies and delete any electronic copies of Al-Kadi’s booking photo.
The Ramsey County Sheriff’s Office disclosed on Tuesday that no jail staff involved with Al-Kadi’s booking were disciplined, because “their actions were in accordance with existing policy.”
“The policy, at the time, mirrored those for jails and correctional facilities around the region,” said Chief Sheriff’s Deputy David Metusalem. “Shortly after this issue was raised, policies were modified and there have not been any problems since.”