A woman wearing a hijab
Until now, whether Muslim women were allowed to wear a hijab during a police booking photo was at the discretion of the officers on-duty.

In a change two years in the making, the New York Police Department will no longer require Muslim women who wear a hijab remove it when their mugshot is taken. The policy's about-face, the result of a pair of lawsuits filed by four Muslim women, will apply to all types of religious headwear.

For religious freedom groups, the announcement was long overdo. They've argued for years that the government shouldn't be allowed to force people to violate sacred tenets of their religion, like removing a headscarf which is required to be worn in public. 

Police departments and other authorities have insisted that the issue isn't about religion at all – that it's simply not possible to get an accurate mugshot when someone's face or head is covered. 

What Critics Say

The hijab is a headscarf worn by many Muslim women when outside their home and around men who aren’t immediate family. It typically covers the head and upper shoulders, and is traditionally worn as a symbol of modesty. Many (but not all) Muslims believe the wearing of a hijab is explicitly required by the Quran.

One of the legal complaints, filed in March of 2018, details the arrest of Jamilla Clark, who was threatened with prosecution if she did not remove her hijab for her mugshot. It paints a portrait of police indifference, including NYPD officers allegedly mocking her faith as she wept and begged to put her hijab back on.

“Humiliated, distraught, and panicked,” was how another woman who brought a suit said she felt when the NYPD demanded she remove her hijab for her mugshot. She described getting her photo taken without her hijab – in a room full of men – as a deep humiliation and a clear violation of her religious beliefs. 

Sensitivity Training

Now, all that will change. The NYPD’s new policy allows officers to briefly remove hijabs and other religious headwear to search for weapons or contraband, but that search will now be conducted in a private room with an officer of the same sex. Unless the arrestee has an identifying characteristic like a unique hair color or a scar that would otherwise be covered by the hijab, they can now wear that garment during mugshots and bookings.

If a photo without the hijab is required, it can be done in a private area.

And this change isn’t strictly for hijabs. The new policy applies to yarmulkes, turbans, and all other religious headwear. Basically, the NYPD will make a greater effort to be more sensitive to religious needs. 

If anything, the NYPD is just now getting on board with policies that are already in place elsewhere across the country. Hijabs are allowed in passport photos, for example, and most states allow for religious headwear to be worn in driver’s license photos.

A Win-Win

For what it’s worth, both the NYPD and the plaintiffs in the case agree: this is a good change. Patricia Miller, chief of the Special Federal Litigation Division of the NYC Law Department, told CNN that the change “carefully balances the department's respect for firmly held religious beliefs with the legitimate law enforcement need to take arrest photos, and should set an example for other police departments in the country.”

And Andrew Wilson, one of the attorneys representing Jamilla Clark said that the new policy “respects [religious concerns] to the maximum extent possible while at the same time ensuring that the core concerns that the city had are met.” He compared forcing a Muslim woman to remove her hijab to forcing a secular person to remove their pants. 

What is your reaction to the change?

10 comments

  1. Catherine Ohrin-Greipp's Avatar Catherine Ohrin-Greipp

    OMG are we back to trying to dictate what a woman wears? This whole business of the hijab is only about some bogeyman fear of Middle Easterners. Good that being able to keep her veil on is finally put to rest.

  1. Wedding Officiant Cheryl's Avatar Wedding Officiant Cheryl

    Respect of a person's religious attire should pose no problem to anyone. If that is a problem then no one should be allowed to wear any type of religious jewelry or clothing when taking a photo no matter the faith.

  1. T Kosse`'s Avatar T Kosse`

    Part 1of 3

    What does the Quran really say about a Muslim woman's hijab? | Samina Ali | TEDxUniversityofNevada

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_J5bDhMP9lQ

    I’m going to take you back in time, 1400 years, to the city of Medina, Saudi Arabia.

    To a time when Prophet Mouhammed was given the task of finding a solution to women in the city being attacked and molested.

    The situation was this: It was around the year 600 AD, long before the modern convenience, of plumbing.

    When a woman awoke in the middle of the night with the urge to relieve herself, she would have to walk out, past the outskirts of the city, and into the wild by herself, for privacy.

    Believe it or not, a group of men actually began to see an opportunity in women’s nightly tracks, and started to linger at the outskirts of the city – their identities hidden in the dark, watching.

    If a woman walked by, and she happen to be wearing a jilbab, which was a garment like a coat, the men knew to leave her alone.

    A jilbab of centuries ago was a status symbol, like a Burberry trench or a Chanel jacket.

    It announced that the woman was free, and a free woman was protected by her clan.

    She would have no problems speaking out against the attacker and identifying him.

    But if the woman walking out at night wasn’t wearing a jilbab, if she happen to be dressed a bit more freely, then the men knew she was a slave, and they attacked her.

    Concerned members of the community brought the situation to the Prophet, and like so many other social, political and familial issues that Muhammed faced during his Prophethood, he turned this particular matter over to God, and a verse was revealed for the Quran, the Muslim holy book.

    “O Prophet,” it reads, “tell your wives, your daughters, and the women of the believers to draw upon themselves their garments. This is better, so that they not be known and molested.”

    Basically, the verse advises that all women dress similarly, so that they can’t be picked out from one another, zeroed in on, and attacked.

    Now, on the surface, this may seem like a relatively easy solution to the problem, but it turns out it wasn’t.

    The early Muslim community was tribal, and so deeply entrenched in social status, and the idea that a slave would look like a free woman, that as almost insulting.

    And then there was the matter of practicality.

    How would a slave do her work?

    How would she function, if her body was constricted by a coat?

    How would she cook, clean, fetch water?

    In the end, the early Muslim scholars ruled that a woman’s way of dress should be based on two considerations: a woman’s function in society – her role, what we might consider her job - and the society’s specific customs.

    Or, in another way: when in Rome.

    Now Muslims like to take historical rulings and apply them to the modern era.

    So let’s do that.

    A woman’s way of dress should be based on custom and function.

    So, what does that mean for a Muslim woman living in America today, for someone like me?

    First, it means that I have a function, a role in society, a contribution that I can make.

    Second, it means that while I’m making that contribution, and living in a society where veiling is not the custom, and where, in fact, if I veil it might actually lead to harassment, then wearing what is the custom, such as a dress, a pair of jeans or even yoga pants, is not only acceptable, it’s recommended.

    But wait, could that be right?

    After all, haven’t we all come to assume that a Muslim woman must veil, that veiling is a requirement of her faith?

    There even a term that we’ve all come to associate with the Muslim woman’s veil, an Arabic term that we’ve all heard used, whether or not we’ve been aware of it: “Hijab.”

    So, maybe I missed it.

    Maybe the requirement that a woman veil is in a different part of the Quran.

    For those of you who don’t know, the Quran consists of 114 chapters, each chapter is written out in verses, like poetry.

    There are more than 6,000 verses in the Quran.

    Out of the 6,000 plus verses, three refer to how a woman should dress.

    The first is the verse I’ve already told you about.

    The second is a verse that directly speak to the Prophet’s wives, asking that they begin to dress a bit more modestly because of their role, their function in society as his wives.

    And the third verse is similar to the first, in that it was revealed in direct response to a historical situation.

    See part 2 of 3 -What does the Quran really say about a Muslim woman's hijab? | Samina Ali | TEDxUniversityofNevada

  1. T Kosse`'s Avatar T Kosse`

    Part 2 of 3

    What does the Quran really say about a Muslim woman's hijab? | Samina Ali | TEDxUniversityofNevada

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_J5bDhMP9lQ

    Early records show that the custom, the fashion during the pre-Islamic era, was for women to wear a scarf on the head, called a khimar, which would be tucked behind the ears and allowed to flow behind the back.

    In the front, a woman wore a tight vest or a bodice, which she left open exposing her breasts - sort of like the images you’ve seem in the Game of Thrones.

    When Islam spread through the Arabian Peninsula, a verse was sent down asking that women use this scarf, or any other garment, to cover the breasts.

    And that it.

    That’s basically all the there is in the Quran concerning how a woman should dress.

    Turns out, God doesn’t give a bullet point of all the parts on a woman’s body that he wants hidden from view.

    And in fact, it might be argued, and it is argued, I cannot stress enough that it is argued by many Muslim scholars that the reason these verses were left intentionally vague is so that woman could choose for herself how to dress according to her specific culture and the progression of time.

    And that term “hijab,” guess what?

    It’s not in any of these three verses.

    In fact, it’s nowhere in the Quran, directly meaning a woman’s veil.

    That’s not to say that the word doesn’t appear in the Quran because it does appear.

    But when it appears, it’s actually used correctly, to mean a barrier or a divide.

    Such as the barrier or divide that exists between us humans and the divine, or between believer and non-believers.

    Or it means a barrier, like a physical screen, that men during Muhammad’s time were asked to stand behind when speaking to his wives.

    Or it means the seclusion, the separation that Mary sought when she was giving birth to Jesus.

    That separation and seclusion, that means hijab; that physical screen, that means hijab; that barrier, that divide, that means hijab.

    Hijab doesn’t mean a woman veil.

    And yet, isn’t it strange that what the term actually means, being screen off, divided away, barred, separated out, these are the very terms that come to our minds when we think of a Muslim woman?

    Why shouldn’t they?

    We have all seen the way some Muslim women are treated around the world: If she attempts to go to school, she shot in head; if she attempts to drive a car, she’s jailed; if she attempts to take part in the political uprisings happening in her own country, to be heard, to be counted, she publicly assaulted.

    Forget about hiding out in the dark at the outskirts of the city, some men now feel comfortable enough to assault a woman on the sidewalk, for the world to see,

    And they don’t care to hide their identities, they’re more interested in making international headlines.

    They’re too busy making videos and uploading them onto YouTube, bragging about what they’ve done.

    Why don’t they care to hide their crimes?

    They don’t feel like they’ve committed any crimes.

    It’s the women who’ve committed the crimes.

    It’s the women who got these funny ideas in their heads, ideas that actually led them out of the house, led them into society, believing that they can make a contribution, and we all know, honorable women, they stay at home; honorable women stay invisible.

    Just as it was the custom for honorable women to do during the Prophet’s time.

    Is that true?

    1400 years ago is long before feminism.

    Were women locked away behind doors, screened off by veils?

    Well, it turns out that the Prophet’s first wife was what we would define today as a CEO.

    She was a successful merchant whose caravan equaled the caravans of all the other traders put together.

    She essentially headed up a successful import-export company.

    When she hired Muhammed to work for her, she was so taken with his honesty that eventually she proposed.

    I’m not sure how many women feel comfortable proposing marriage to a man today.

    And Muhammad’s second wife?

    She was no slacker either.

    See part 3 of 3- What does the Quran really say about a Muslim woman's hijab? | Samina Ali | TEDxUniversityofNevada

  1. Brien's Avatar Brien

    Umm, if you are taking a MUG SHOT then you are a CRIMINAL and as such your rights have been curtailed due to you being handcuffed, arrested, and locked in jail. I do not see the issue here.

    1. Catherine Ohrin-Greipp's Avatar Catherine Ohrin-Greipp

      In the USA, a person is innocent until proven guilty in a court of law. Mugshots do not prove criminal behavior.

    2. CB Cuff's Avatar CB Cuff

      Think racial profiling...out of control in the USA. Police always seem to come up with some BS story of why someone was 'detained'. Let's even go back a couple of steps....when people are walking down the street, then being stopped, ID'ed, then searched, then sent on their way. so much for land of the free and home of the brave!

  1. T Kosse`'s Avatar T Kosse`

    Part 3 of 3

    What does the Quran really say about a Muslim woman's hijab? | Samina Ali | TEDxUniversityofNevada

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_J5bDhMP9lQ

    She rode into battle on the back of a camel, which is equivalent to a woman riding into battle today inside of a Humvee or a tank.

    And what of the other women?

    Early records show that women demanded to be included in the Islamic revolution taking place around the Prophet.

    One woman became famous as a general when she led her army of men into battle and crushed a rebellion.

    Men and women freely associated with one another, exchanged gifts.

    It was custom for a woman to select her own husband and propose.

    And when things didn’t work out, to initiate divorce.

    Women even loudly debated with the Prophet himself.

    Seem to me that if the fundamentalists want to return current Muslim society to 680 AD, it might be a huge step forward.

    But we still have too answer an important question.

    If not from Islamic history, and if not from the Quran, how is it that we, in the modern era, have come to associate Muslim women with hijab?

    With being separated out from society, secluded and isolated, barred from the most basic human rights?

    I hope it’s not any surprise to you that this isn’t by accident.

    For the past few decades, the very people who have been given the important task of reading and interpreting the Quran in a variety of different Muslim community, certain clerics have been inserting a certain meaning into those three verses concerning women.

    For instance that verse I told you about earlier: “O Prophet, tell your wives, your daughters, and the women of the believers, to draw upon themselves their garments, this is better, so that they not be known and molested.”

    Some clerics, not all, some clerics have added a few words to that, so that in certain translations of the Quran, that verse read like this: “ O Prophet, tell your wives, your daughters, and the women of the believers, to draw upon themselves their garments, parentheses, a garment is a veil that covers the entire head and the face, the neck and the breast all the way down to the ankles and all the way to the wrists.

    Everything on a woman’s body is covered except for one eye because she must see where she is headed, and the hands must be covered in gloves.

    Because. Of course, there was certainly a lot of gloves back in the desert of Saudi Arabia.

    Etc., etc., etc., etc., on, and on, and on, end of parentheses, so she not be known and molested.”

    And what these so-called clerics have concluded based on these types of insertions is that a woman only has one function.

    To understand what that function is, all you have to do is read some of the fatwas or legal rulings that these so-called clerics have actually gone and issued.

    Let me give you a sampling.

    A woman need only finish elementary school before she get married.

    Which puts her, what, at the ripe old age of 11, 12 years old?

    A woman cannot fulfill her spiritual obligations to God until she first fulfills her physical obligations to her husband.

    If he desires her while she sits on the mount of a camel, she should submit.

    Islam has forbidden a woman from wearing a bra because bras lift up and make a woman appear younger, and this is calculated deception.

    My personal favorite: if a man has an ulcer excreting puss, from the top of his head to the bottom of his feet, and she lick it for him, ( EWWW! That’s gross and disgusting) she would still not fulfill what she owes him.

    What these and the many other rulings just like it concerning women boil down to is this: The best of women, the most honorable among them is uneducated, and so powerless, not very different from a slave.

    So, she remains at home without complaint, without a bra.

    Ready and available at all times to satisfy his every whim, even if it to lick his entire body; satisfying him whenever he calls, whether it’s in his bed or on the mount of a camel.

    Does this sound like God’s will to you?

    Does this sound like scripture?

    Or does this sound strangely, uncomfortably erotic, like the worst kind of misogynist fantasy?

    Are these so-called clerics, and the fundamentalists and extremists who support them, truly purifying Islam from within, bringing it back to its intended form?

    Or are these men no different from those men standing out in the dark at the outskirts of the city, eager to prey upon a woman?

    Thank you.

  1. Lionheart's Avatar Lionheart

    Fortunately they don’t have to wear gloves in their religion preventing fingerprints from being taken.

    Sorry for my short reply in only 1 part to this topic T Kosse.

    🦁❤️

    1. T Kosse`'s Avatar T Kosse`

      That Ok Lionheart

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