California Muslims sue over hijab discrimination

By AFP
Published: May 3, 2016
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PHOTO: ALJAZEERA

PHOTO: ALJAZEERA

LOS ANGELES: Two lawsuits filed in California on Monday claim that Muslim women were discriminated against in separate incidents because of their religion and for wearing the hijab.

One of the suits claims that police in Long Beach forcibly removed a suspect’s headscarf while another suit alleges that a group of women were kicked out of a Laguna Beach coffee house for being Muslim.

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According to the complaint against the city of Long Beach and its police department, Kirsty Powell and her husband were pulled over by two officers while driving home in May of last year.

She was subsequently arrested on two outstanding warrants — one linked to her sister allegedly falsely using her identity and one in relation to a 2002 shoplifting incident at a grocery store.

Powell, who is African American, alleges that while being booked at the police station, one of the officers forcibly removed her headscarf in view of other male officers and inmates, telling her she was “not allowed to wear her hijab” and that policemen were “allowed to touch women.”

The suit states that Powell “suffered and continues to suffer extreme shame, humiliation, mental anguish and emotional distress” as a result of her experience.

“The actions taken by the Long Beach police officers were unwarranted and a serious violation of Mrs Powell’s bodily integrity,” said Yalda Satar, attorney for the Los Angeles chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, which filed the suit on behalf of Powell.

“The manner in which Mrs Powell was treated by LBPD officers was simply a show of authority over a woman of color who was unable to protect herself, and is another example of the type of discrimination faced by women who wear a hijab.”

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The Long Beach Police Department and city officials did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

In a separate lawsuit also filed on Monday, a group of seven women claim that they were kicked out of Urth Caffe, in Laguna Beach, last month because they were Muslim.

The women, six of whom wear the headscarf, allege that management had asked them to vacate their table on April 22 on grounds that the restaurant was busy and that the policy limited seating to 45 minutes when no free tables are available.

When the women refused to leave, the coffee house called in the police.

Dan Stormer, whose law firm is representing the women, told AFP that it was clear his clients were targeted because of their religion.

“At the time our clients were there, there were several dozen free tables,” he said.

“There were people who were there before our clients arrived and they were not asked to leave. Those people were white and they were not wearing the hijab.”

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The owner of the restaurant, Shallom Berkman, could not be reached for comment.

But in interviews with local media, he denied discriminating against the women and pointed out that his wife was Muslim.

The two lawsuits come as police in Los Angeles and San Francisco have come under scrutiny over racist and homophobic text messages and emails, several of which target Muslims.

On Sunday, a senior official at the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department stepped down after outrage over emails he sent three to four years ago mocking Muslims and others.

In San Francisco, several police officers have resigned or retired over racist text messages they exchanged among each other.

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Reader Comments (17)

  • SuperNeo
    May 3, 2016 - 10:39AM

    and country from where they originally belongs to allows then to sit in beach cafe and enjoy ?Recommend

  • observer
    May 3, 2016 - 10:54AM

    This lady should visit KSA as soon as possible.

    And try to roam around without a Male Escort to fully understand ‘Policing’.Recommend

  • Bunny Rabbit
    May 3, 2016 - 12:09PM

    This is what is called – ” taking advantage of your host country” . Now you know why the ‘wild west’ is wary of taking in immigrants / refugees . Recommend

  • omar
    May 3, 2016 - 12:20PM

    good courageous decision, sue café and LAPD, this has gone too far, Muslims must assert their rights. dont take insult from anyone without giving a good response.
    I hope south west is getting sued by those they off-boarded.Recommend

  • SuperNeo
    May 3, 2016 - 1:26PM

    @omar:
    Dont you think they should go back to their home country.
    US is kust giving them feel like home environment.Recommend

  • curious2
    May 3, 2016 - 2:45PM

    Chances of court victory are slim. In one case the Muslim women was a criminal and your not entitled to wear a hijab when going through booking process (pictures, finger prints, body search) in jail. In the second case the owner of the cafe is married to a Muslim and the written cafe’s policy says that during high demand period your asked to move on after 45 minutes at your table. Recommend

  • samunder
    May 3, 2016 - 3:32PM

    I wonder what do Muslims value most? their cherished publisized faith or the social security non Muslim countries provide?Recommend

  • Averagre Pashtun
    May 3, 2016 - 3:42PM

    @Bunny Rabbit:
    @SuperNeo:
    can you tell me how did you come to a conclusion that they were immigrants?
    cause on one hand we have an african american and on the other it just says group of 5 or 7 women? can you share your power of deductivness with us..Recommend

  • Kashmala
    May 3, 2016 - 7:15PM

    Muslim women are making big money from this discrimination wave. Not too many opportunities otherwise.Recommend

  • observer
    May 4, 2016 - 3:01AM

    If these people want to be so orthodox and observant, why don’t they move to a Muslim country where they can practice their culture and faith without having to force other cultures to change their ways to accommodate their practices?Recommend

  • gp65
    May 4, 2016 - 3:43AM

    So the criminal person feels she should not have undergone normal police procedure because she was Muslim?

    Did Urth café refuse to serve the women? No. It served them and they were there for 45 minutes. Was the 45 minute policy posted before they arrived? Yes. Was it peak hour? Yes. Tables may have been empty at the time the fresh order was refused but perhaps the restaurant knew what to expect. IT simply refused to take a fresh order for this group because they expected the tables to get occupied by the time the fresh order was served.. Is there any evidence that it accepted a fresh order from the other group? They may not ask people to vacate until there is a space crunch but they may refuse to take a fresh order – after all you cannot ask people to leave if they are already eating.

    Even the coke can story in airline later out turned out to be very different from how it had been originally projected. When people cry wolf like this, even cases of actual discrimination are not taken seriously.Recommend

  • Travis
    May 4, 2016 - 7:03AM

    As the saying goes “Make hay while the Sun shines”. Sue now.
    The Donald is coming and he is bringing Uncle Scrooge along. Recommend

  • Adnan Siddiqui
    May 4, 2016 - 7:06AM

    Aren’t there signs in every restaurant that give the owner the right to evict any patron without having to give any explanation as long as the customer is refunded the money he paid? What are these people suing over? Just a money-making scam.Recommend

  • Tp
    May 4, 2016 - 7:08AM

    Stop going into a restaurant bandaged like a Mummy, It makes other patrons uncomfortable.Recommend

  • Alter Ego
    May 4, 2016 - 11:07AM

    @Tp:
    @observer:
    @SuperNeo:
    Muslims too must enjoy the rights and priviliges given to others.
    What does the injustice in Australia has to do with the injustice in other countries.
    If an African comes to my country , will it be alright for me to shoot him as Africa has a very high rate of wars and violence.
    No of course not.Recommend

  • Alter Ego
    May 4, 2016 - 11:08AM

    @samunder:
    Muslims shouldn’t have to choose between the two.
    If other nationalities can live their lives as they want then Muslims too must have that right.Recommend

  • Rao
    Aug 10, 2016 - 4:48PM

    @Tp: “…bandaged like a mummy…” . Too harsh a statement for a religious observant honest citizen.Recommend

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