On Monday, the Michigan chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR-MI) said it is suing the Oakland County Sheriff ‘s Office for allegedly removing by force the hijab of a Dearborn Muslim woman when she was detained last year in the Oakland County jail.
On Jan. 16 CAIR-MI sent a Notice of Claim alerting Oakland County Sheriff Michael Bouchard of the intention to sue him and his office for what allegedly happened in August to the woman, whose name was redacted from a copy of the filing that CAIR provided to the local media on Monday.
The notice stated the organization plans “to recover damages sustained by the claimant as a result of the negligence, recklessness and intentional conduct of the officers of Oakland County Sheriff’s Office, employees and agents.”
The lawsuit is seeking a $200,000 in damages for the alleged violations of the woman’s First and Fourth Amendment constitutional rights, according to CAIR’s notice.
“The wearing of that hijab is a sincerely-held religious belief of thousands of women in Michigan, including in Oakland County,” CAIR-Michigan Executive Director Dawud Walid said in a statement issued on Monday. “The stripping of the religious head covering in front of men and creating a permanent public record of an image of the Muslim woman without her hijab is highly offensive.”
“We will be checking into this,” Oakland County Undersheriff Curtis Childs said in an email.
According to the notice of claim, the woman was arrested in August for an unspecified offense by Waterford Township police and transferred to the Oakland County Jail.
“While in the custody of the Oakland County Sheriff’s Office, the woman was subjected to a cross-gender search of her person in front of three other male officers during which she was stripped of her hijab by a male officer,” a CAIR press release stated.
“The Dearborn woman was not allowed to obtain a hijab for the entirety of her stay at Oakland County jail and was paraded around the entire jail facility in front of male staff, officers and detainees without her hijab,” the release said. “In addition, the Dearborn Muslim woman was forced to take a booking photograph without her hijab that was later released to Oakland County Sheriff’s Office’s public website. The Dearborn woman was later released without charge.”
In a similar case, CAIR filed a federal lawsuit earlier this month against Kent County and the Kent County Sheriff’s Office on behalf of a Muslim woman who was “forcibly stripped of her hijab for a booking photograph that was released to the Internet,” according to CAIR’s press release.
CAIR also settled lawsuits in 2022 and 2023 against Ferndale, Detroit and the Michigan Department of Corrections involving Muslim inmates being forced to remove hijabs for booking photos.