Woman sues Detroit, state corrections claiming she was forced to remove hijab for booking photo

Posted at 3:45 PM, Oct 06, 2020
and last updated 2020-10-06 15:45:15-04

A metro Detroit woman says jail staff forced her to remove her hijab for a booking photo, violating her rights.

Now she's suing the city of Detroit and the Michigan Department of Corrections.

Attorney Amy Doukoure says the Michigan Department of Corrections followed its own policy, forcing her client to remove a religious head covering. But she says it's a policy that needs to be changed –and a lawsuit seeks to do that and compensate her.

"Their rules actually violate the constitution and federal laws," said CAIR Michigan staff Attorney Doukoure.

Doukoure says her client, Zainab Chaaban, was traumatized at the Detroit Detention Center in April 2019.

Detroit Mich Doc by WXYZ-TV Channel 7 Detroit on Scribd

The facility operates under an agreement between the Detroit Police Department and the state Department of Corrections.

Chaaban, who was eventually acquitted of the charges she faced, filed a lawsuit alleging jail staff forcibly removed her hijab for a booking photo.

"She also had to take that picture and put it on her wristband," said Doukoure. "And she had to wear that wristband around the facility the entire time that she was there, and show it off to male officers as she passed them. This is a very serious violation of the rules of the Islamic faith that require women to remain covered, including their hair, their neck and their chest in front of men that they're not related to close relations."

Doukoure also noted a different case in Dearborn Heights that recently settled out of court, saying this is nothing new.

She says CAIR Michigan has been trying to speak with the entities named in this lawsuit on changing the policy for the past year and a half.

"And provide them with guidance on how other municipalities have done it around the country, and they have just refused to engage even in a responsive document to us," said Doukoure. "They never sent us an email back, a call, anything. So we really had our hands forced with this lawsuit."

In a statement, counsel for the city of Detroit says “...neither the city of Detroit nor the Detroit Police Department take photographs of people entering the Detroit Detention Center. The city does not belong in this lawsuit, and we will ask to be dismissed from it.”

The department of corrections has yet to respond to 7 Action News' request for comment.

Both parties have one month to respond to the court.