Friday, January 11, 2013

CAIR Asks S. Carolina Dept. of Corrections to Allow Hijab
(WASHINGTON, D.C., 1/9/13) -- The nation's largest Muslim civil rights and advocacyorganization said today that it has called on the South Carolina Department of Corrections (SCDOC) to allow female inmates to wear religiously-mandated head coverings, called "hijab."
The Washington-based Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) made that requestfollowing a complaint from a Muslim woman who was taken into custody on December 31, 2012, and was allegedly told to remove her hijab so she could have her bookingphotograph taken. The booking officer reportedly disregarded the woman's religious concerns and "intimidated" her into removing her scarf in the presence of a male officer.
The Muslim inmate's husband was allegedly informed that "all Muslim women take off their scarves" when in custody.
In a letter sent yesterday to SCDOC Director William R. Byars, Jr., CAIR National Legal Director Nadhira Al-Khalili wrote in part:
"It is well-settled law that local and federal correctional institutions must respect the religious observances of their inmates. The Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act calls on penal institutions to provide reasonable and equitable opportunities for inmates to participate in the practices of their faiths, which include, but are not limited to, allowing female Muslim inmates to wear head scarves.
"[The Muslim inmate] and any other female Muslim in the custody of the South Carolina Department of Corrections must be permitted to cover her hair at all times and in all areas of the facility during incarceration, including during booking photography. In order to ensure security, many correctional institutions allow a female correctional officer to search a female inmate's hair and scarf in a private room, away from male inmates and correctional officers.
"No inmate should be forced to violate her deeply-held and constitutionally-protected religious beliefs while in the custody of the South Carolina Department of Corrections."
CAIR's letter requested that SCDOC conduct a full investigation of the allegations, discipline anyone who is found to have discriminated against the Muslim inmate, provide a written apology, return any photographs taken of the Muslim inmate, institute policy changes to ensure that no Muslim woman is subjected to removal of her head scarf, and institute CAIR's religious diversity training for all staff of the South Carolina Department of Corrections.
CAIR offers an educational toolkit, called "A Correctional Institution's Guide to Islamic Religious Practices," to help correctional officers gain a better understanding of Islam and Muslims.
Last year, CAIR's St. Louis chapter thanked county and law enforcement officials foragreeing to provide religious accommodation for Muslim women who wear hijab and are held in the St. Louis County Jail in Clayton, Mo.
CAIR's Minnesota chapter helped resolve a similar case in which a Muslim woman sought to exercise her religious rights while in jail.
In 2011, the U.S. Supreme Court refused to overturn a lower court ruling that said a Muslim woman "had the right to wear the scarf unless jailers could show it was a security risk."
In that case, the Muslim woman's suit cited the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (RLUIPA), which prohibits state and local governments from imposing "a substantial burden on the religious exercise of a person residing in or confined to an institution."
CAIR is America's largest Muslim civil liberties and advocacy organization. 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.

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