Muslim civil rights group thanks officials following meeting with community leaders
ST. LOUIS, April 23, 2012 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- The St. Louis chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR-St. Louis) today thanked county and law enforcement officials for agreeing to provide religious accommodation for Muslim women who wear an Islamic headscarf, or "hijab," and are held in the St. Louis County Jail in Clayton, Mo.
CAIR-St. Louis made that request for accommodation after a Muslim woman who was jailed recently for several hours because of an unpaid traffic ticket reported that an officer forcibly removed her hijab. Based on that request, Director of St. Louis County Justice Services Herb Bernsen said he would review existing policies "to try to work out a solution that would satisfy both our security needs and individual religious concerns."
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In a meeting today that included Bernsen, Chief of Police for the St. Louis County Police Department Colonel Tim Fitch, a representative of CAIR-St. Louis, Muslim community leaders, and other law enforcement and county officials, it was agreed that any Muslim woman wearing hijab would be screened by a female officer in a private area and would have her scarf returned following that screening.
A letter of apology will also be sent to the woman whose hijab was removed.
"We thank all those involved in discussing this issue for their goodwill and flexibility in meeting both the religious needs of those held in the jail and the legitimate safety and security needs of the facility," said CAIR-St. Louis Executive Director Faizan Syed.
Syed said a similar policy on religious accommodation could be adopted by other area jails.
The U.S. Supreme Court recently refused to overturn a lower court ruling that said a Muslim woman "had the right to wear the scarf unless jailers could show it was a security risk."
In that case, the Muslim woman's suit cited the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (RLUIPA), which prohibits state and local governments from imposing "a substantial burden on the religious exercise of a person residing in or confined to an institution."
CAIR's Minnesota chapter (CAIR-MN) helped resolve a similar case in which a Muslim woman sought to exercise her religious rights while in jail.
The Washington-based group offers an educational toolkit, called "A Correctional Institution's Guide to Islamic Religious Practices," to help correctional officers gain a better understanding of Islam and Muslims.
SEE: A Correctional Institution's Guide to Islamic Religious Practices
CAIR is America's largest Muslim civil liberties and advocacy organization. Its mission is to enhance the understanding of Islam, encourage dialogue, protect civil liberties, empower American Muslims, and build coalitions that promote justice and mutual understanding.
SOURCE Council on American-Islamic Relations