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.