NYC Agrees to $17.5 Million Settlement for Hijab Removal for Mug Shot

18:32 - April 06, 2024
News ID: 3487829
IQNA – New York City consented to a $17.5 million settlement in response to a legal claim from two Muslim-American women who said that their rights were infringed upon by police who compelled them to take off their hijabs for photographs following their arrest.

NYC Agrees to $17.5 Million Settlement for Hijab Removal for Mug Shot


The lawsuit was brought by two Muslim-American women, Jamilla Clark and Arwa Aziz, who said their rights were infringed upon when police forced them to remove their hijabs for mugshots, Reuters reported on Friday

The settlement, pending approval by U.S. District Judge Analisa Torres, addresses claims from individuals compelled to remove religious headwear for police photographs.

After legal fees, the payout is expected to be around $13.1 million, with potential increases if more claimants come forward from the over 3,600 eligible individuals. Compensation for affected persons will range from $7,824 to $13,125.

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The lawsuit, initiated in 2018, stemmed from incidents in 2017 where Clark and Aziz experienced humiliation and distress during their arrests in Manhattan and Brooklyn. They equated the removal of their hijabs to a strip search, with Clark expressing the profound violation she felt at being forced to uncover.

"When they forced me to take off my hijab, I felt as if I were naked," Clark said in a statement provided by her lawyers. "I'm not sure if words can capture how exposed and violated I felt."

In response to the lawsuit, the New York Police Department (NYPD) amended its policy in 2020, allowing individuals to retain head coverings in mugshots, provided their faces remain visible.

This policy change extends to other forms of religious headwear, such as yarmulkes and turbans, with allowances for temporary removal in private by officers of the same gender for security checks.

Nicholas Paolucci, a spokesperson for the city's law department, said that the settlement led to a positive change within the NYPD, striking a balance between respecting religious beliefs and fulfilling law enforcement requirements.

Albert Fox Cahn, a lawyer for Clark and Aziz, said the accord "sends a powerful message that the NYPD can't violate New Yorkers' First Amendment rights without paying a price."

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This was also echoed by the New York chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR-NY).

“Hopefully this settlement will send a resonating incentive to police departments in New York and around the country to respect the religious obligations of all people,” CAIR-NY Executive Director Afaf Nasher said in a statement on Friday.

She also appreciated the Muslim women who “bravely persisted with this litigation, prompting policy change that benefit many with similar religious garb requirements.”

The settlement is open to those who were mandated to remove their head coverings from March 16, 2014, to August 23, 2021.


Source: Agencies