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Sunday, April 14, 2024

Suffolk County Police Department facing lawsuit over forceful removal of Hijab

The lawsuit, filed on Wednesday, seeks compensation for the violation of Fahmy's rights and the emotional suffering she endured.

The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR-New York) and Emery Celli Brinckerhoff Abady Ward & Maazel LLP (ECBAWMM) have filed a lawsuit against the Suffolk County Police Department (SCPD). The lawsuit alleges that Marowa Fahmy, a Muslim woman from East Setauket, was wrongfully arrested in 2022 based on a false tip, and during her arrest, her hijab was forcefully removed and not returned until after her release.

Violation of Rights

The lawsuit, filed on Wednesday, seeks compensation for the violation of Fahmy’s rights and the emotional suffering she endured. According to CAIR-NY legal fellow Burhan Carroll, the SCPD’s hijab-removal policy is deemed inhumane, regressive, and clearly unlawful. Carroll emphasized that the rights of Muslim Americans extend beyond the doors of the local police precinct, and CAIR-NY is committed to fighting on behalf of community members who have faced injustices at the hands of law enforcement.

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Inappropriate Actions During Arrest

The lawsuit outlines disturbing details of Fahmy’s arrest, alleging that her hijab was forcibly removed, and she was subjected to inappropriate touching while undergoing a body search by male officers. These actions, as described in the legal filing, not only violated Fahmy’s religious freedom but also raised questions about the conduct of the SCPD during routine procedures.

Denial of Hijab Return

Despite repeated requests during Fahmy’s detention, the SCPD reportedly failed to return her hijab, leaving her without it for several hours until her release. CAIR argues that this prolonged denial of religious attire further exacerbated the violation of Fahmy’s rights, and the lawsuit claims that such actions breach both New York State and federal laws.

Legal Standpoint

Andrew Wilson, a partner at ECBAWMM, expressed optimism that the lawsuit could set a standard requiring Suffolk County to protect the religious freedom of individuals like Ms. Fahmy who choose to wear religious head coverings. Wilson emphasized that religious practice and police practice are not incompatible, underscoring the importance of upholding the constitutional rights of all individuals, regardless of their faith.

Read More: CAIR-NY has strongly condemned the alleged silencing and discrimination of its representative

The lawsuit against the Suffolk County Police Department marks a pivotal moment in the ongoing fight for religious freedom and protection against discriminatory practices. As the legal proceedings unfold, it is hoped that this case will not only bring justice to Marowa Fahmy but also establish a precedent that safeguards the religious rights of individuals in the face of law enforcement actions. The outcome of this lawsuit may influence future policies and practices, reinforcing the principle that everyone, regardless of their faith, deserves equal protection under the law.