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Thread: Woman, forced to remove Muslim headscarf during visit, sues prison

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    RZ Chamber of Commerce Unassisted's Avatar
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    Woman, forced to remove Muslim headscarf during visit, sues prison

    http://www.madison.com/tct/news/stor...php?ntid=41380
    Woman, forced to remove hijab during visit, sues prison


    By Kevin Murphy
    Correspondent for The Capital Times
    May 26, 2005



    Cynthia Rhouni speaks Wednesday about her experience of being ordered to remove her scarf, or Hijab, to enter a maximum-security prison. Rhouni has filed a federal lawsuit against Columbia Correctional Institution in Portage, Wisconsin. (AP Photo)


    A Muslim woman who was forced to remove her headscarf in order to visit her ex-husband at the Columbia Correctional Institution claims the prison's policy violates her right to practice her religion, according to a federal lawsuit filed Wednesday. The complaint alleged:

    Cynthia D. Rhouni of Madison was visiting Michael Gibson in February 2003 with her son when a guard at the gatehouse said she would need to remove her headscarf, or hijab. After passing through a metal detector, Rhouni was told that new prison policy prohibited visitors from wearing head coverings in the visiting room for any reason.

    Rhouni said she wears the hijab for religious reasons and requested that a female guard remove or inspect it, but was told that wasn't possible. Because her son was struggling in school and needed to visit with his father, Rhouni agreed to remove her hijab in front of the male guard.

    "She said she felt naked, humiliated and embarrassed as traditional Muslim women keep their heads covered when men are present," said Rhouni's attorney, David Lasker. "I don't know if it's in the Quran or not, but it's deeply embedded in the religion and culture of Islam."

    Seeing his ex-wife in the crowded visiting room without her hijab also upset Gibson and put a strain on the visit, Lasker said. She couldn't wear it during a second visit, and the humiliation caused her to end subsequent visits, Lasker said.

    The hijab clings to Rhouni's head and doesn't conceal anything but her hair, Lasker said.

    Although courts have given prisons wide discretion against individual privacy in order to maintain security, the Columbia institution's policy went well beyond security concerns, Lasker said.

    "One sees Catholic nuns visiting prisoners, and as far as we know that issue of the headscarf isn't raised with them," he said.

    Courts have also ruled that when establishing security regulations, prisons must minimize adverse impacts on a visitor's religious expression, Lasker said.

    John Dipko, Department of Corrections spokesman, had no comment on the lawsuit's allegations or DOC policy on visitor dress.

    Lasker said that in May 2003, then-warden Phil Kingston defended the prison's practice and cited visitation management provisions of the state's administration code prohibiting visitor behavior that would threaten security. Lasker said he didn't see any justification in the code for the headscarf policy.

    Lasker also said Kingston explained that the prison didn't have a female officer available for such inspections because it would require the prison to hire guards on the basis of their gender, which is unlawful employment practice. Lasker called Kingston's explanation "cute and absurd."

    The suit seeks unspecified compensatory and punitive damages and a court order banning the policy of requiring Islamic women to remove their headscarves during visits.
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    Where's my chair? REDREAD's Avatar
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    Re: Woman, forced to remove Muslim headscarf during visit, sues prison

    Good grief, another frivilous lawsuit.. If taking off her hat was so humilating, couldn't she have postponed her visit and went through the right channels to get some kind of exception?

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    Re: Woman, forced to remove Muslim headscarf during visit, sues prison

    Quote Originally Posted by REDREAD
    Good grief, another frivilous lawsuit.. If taking off her hat was so humilating, couldn't she have postponed her visit and went through the right channels to get some kind of exception?
    it probably never occured to her. i know for something like that, it never would have occured to me.
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    Re: Woman, forced to remove Muslim headscarf during visit, sues prison

    I may be unpopular for this opinion, but if an American woman is over in the Middle East, does she not have to don the wrags as well? Isn't that respect out of the culture and not to step on any toes? She is allowed to where the thing on her head, but the prison rules say while in there she is not. If she didn't want to take them off, she should have left. It's her ex-husband. But then again, America is all about suing and taking no responsibility anymore. It's always somebody elses fault.

    As in the case in Florida, a woman who wore the more traditional head stuff that showed only her eyes, tried to get a drivers license. They wouldn't let her because she wouldn't take off her head clothes. Well, she sued, and WON. Now, tell me thats safe for law enforcement. ridiculous.

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    Harry Chiti Fan registerthis's Avatar
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    Re: Woman, forced to remove Muslim headscarf during visit, sues prison

    Quote Originally Posted by Jeremy Piergallini
    As in the case in Florida, a woman who wore the more traditional head stuff that showed only her eyes, tried to get a drivers license. They wouldn't let her because she wouldn't take off her head clothes. Well, she sued, and WON. Now, tell me thats safe for law enforcement. ridiculous.
    I find more merits to the "driver's license" ordeal than to this, though. At least with the license, it was a legitimate issue of identification. What, for instance, is going to stop someone from wearing a skimask for their license photo? I mean, I see both sides, but the law enforcement position there at least makes sense.

    For this, I don't see why alternative accomodations or an exception couldn't have been made. Why did she have to remove it in front of a man? COuldn't they have found a woman guard who was available?

    This just seems unnecessary to me.


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