Judge to face lawsuit for ordering Muslim woman to remove head scarf


Judge to face lawsuit for ordering Muslim woman to remove headscarf

Paul Egan / The Detroit News

Southfield — An Islamic group says it will file a federal lawsuit Wednesday against a Wayne County judge who ordered a Muslim woman to remove her head scarf.

“No hats allowed in the courtroom,” Wayne Circuit Judge J. William Callahan is heard telling Raneen Albaghdady in a partial video of the June incident posted on YouTube.

The incident, during a hearing on the woman’s application to change her name, follows a 2006 controversy when a Hamtramck judge ordered Ginnah Muhammad to remove her facial veil, called a niqab, in court.

Unlike an Islamic veil, a head scarf, called a hijab, mostly covers the hair, not the eyes or face, which some judges say they need to see to assess credibility.

“This is a lady whose face was fully visible, Canton Township attorney Nabih Ayad said today of Albaghdady. “There was no reason to tell her to remove her scarf.”

Callahan did not immediately return a telephone message left at his chambers.

The Michigan chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations will join the woman as a plaintiff in the lawsuit, in which Callahan and the county will be named as defendants, Ayad said. The lawsuit is to be detailed at a 2 p.m. news conference today at the council’s office in Southfield.

Melanie Elturk, a staff attorney at the council, said Callahan’s actions violate the constitutional right to freedom of religion and a statement President Barack Obama made in a June address about the right of Muslim women to wear the hijab.

“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,” she said.

Sen. Kerry Sends Ramadan Greetings

United States Senate Committee on Foreign Relations


FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE August 22, 2009 Contact: Frederick Jones, Communications Director, 202-224-4651

Chairman Kerry Statement On Ramadan Washington, D.C.—Senate Foreign Relations Chairman John Kerry (D-MA) released the following statement to Muslim communities in America and around the world marking the start of Ramadan today:

“With the onset of Ramadan, the holiest month of the Muslim calendar year where observing Muslims fast for 30 days from sunrise to sunset as a way to increase spirituality and thank God for his blessings, I want to extend my best wishes to Muslim communities in Massachusetts and around the world. Ramadan Kareem.

“As I said during the hearing I chaired in February on engaging Muslim communities, American Muslims play an important role in the fabric of this country. Their patriotism is a source of security for all of us and their freedom of worship is a powerful counterargument against those whose say American values are incompatible with Islam. As Chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, I look forward to broadening relations with Muslim nations beyond the few lightning-rod topics that have defined them since 9/11 to include climate change, combating poverty, investing in human development, and creating knowledge societies.”

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Mali can teach Detroit a lot about being a community



The prospective renaissance of Detroit will not be found in new City Council members or restructuring the school system but with a major paradigm shift in what is deemed culturally acceptable related to family and community life.

I recently returned from a 10-day trip to Mali, which naturally caused me to compare its capital, Bamako, with Detroit. What I saw provided further instruction as to why I disagree with the commonly held notion that poverty and our miserably performing school system are the primary factors behind Detroit’s social ills.

Bamako, a city whose population size is similar to Detroit, resides in a post-colonial nation whose average household income is $275 per year with an 80% illiteracy rate in the national language of instruction, French. Remarkably, however, Bamako’s crime rate is extremely low, drug abuse is almost nonexistent and the HIV/AIDS rate is slightly less than 2%. Based on conventional wisdom, Bamako should be like the Wild West due to its abject poverty and illiteracy. In fact, I felt significantly safer walking the streets of Bamako as a non-French speaking American.



What Bamako has that Detroit currently lacks is a culture that has no acceptance for overt antisocial behaviors that compromise the family and community life. Crime is low in Bamako because it is interwoven into the cultural fabric that an offense toward one’s neighbor is literally a threat to the entire society. Out-of-wedlock births are not punishable by law yet viewed as antithetical to mores that bind the community together. Detroiters have to admit that we have come to accept the unacceptable, and that a vigorous cultural critique has to be in constant motion before there is any real paradigm shift within the city.



Robert Bobb can weed out corruption in DPS, but we cannot intelligently expect that the climate of schools will significantly change while approximately 7 out of 10 children in the city are born out of wedlock. Young men have taken to the gang and thug life as normative because most of them grew up without fathers and have accepted what Pope John Paul II dubbed “the culture of death,” which the entertainment industry has promoted as an acceptable lifestyle.



Don’t get me wrong; I love Detroit. And Mali, whose citizens’ life expectancy averages only 43 years due to malaria and infant mortality, is no utopia. However, Detroit can learn a lot from this “developing” nation.



Obviously, there are also deep historical factors and bad government policies reaching back to the era of President Lyndon Johnson that account for Detroit’s decline. There are many layers as to why many compare Detroit to a Third World city. However, until what is commonly accepted as the norm is vigorously challenged, though it may seem harsh and painful to many, Detroit will continue to sink further into depravity and mayhem even with a new city charter commission, new city council members and a housecleaning of DPS.



Dawud Walid is assistant imam of Masjid Wali Muhammad — Detroit.