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Muslim woman sues judge over head scarf

Aug. 26, 2009 at 5:10 PM   |   Comments

SOUTHFIELD, Mich., Aug. 26 (UPI) -- A Muslim woman is suing a Michigan judge for telling her to remove her Islamic head scarf in court, claiming he violated her right to freedom of religion.

Raneen Albaghdady and her co-plaintiff, the Michigan office of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, seek a federal court order forbidding Michigan judges from telling women to remove their Islamic head scarves, or hijabs, The Detroit News reported.

Albaghdady and the council filed the suit Wednesday in U.S. District Court against Wayne Circuit Judge J. William Callahan and Wayne County.

"No hats allowed in the courtroom," Callahan told Albaghdady during the June 16 name-change hearing, part of which was captured on video and posted on the video-sharing Web site YouTube.

"OK, it doesn't matter," Albaghdady, 32, of Dearborn Heights said at the hearing, the News reported.

A video of the hearing shows Albaghdady never objected to removing the hijab or explained its religious significance, the News reported Wednesday.

But at a news conference at the council's offices Wednesday, Albaghdady said the judge scared her.

"I was hurt, the way he treated me," Albaghdady said. "I was really, really scared and terrified."

Council staff attorney Melanie Elturk contends the judge's order infringed on Albaghdady's constitutional right to freedom of religion.

"This judge targeted a Muslim woman's religious attire, but he could just as easily have demanded the removal of a Sikh turban, a Jewish yarmulke or a Catholic nun's habit," Elturk said.

The suit also says the judge violated her right to access to the courts.

In a statement Wednesday, Callahan said he has the "greatest respect for spiritual practices and all religious preferences" and "had he been informed that the head covering had some religious significance," he would have allowed it.

© 2009 United Press International, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI's prior written consent.
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