Hijab Mugshot Controversy: Two Muslim Women Awarded Rs 141 Cr in New York Lawsuit Victory

On March 16, 2018, Jamilla Clark and Arwa Aziz sued the city after being forced to remove their head coverings in front of numerous men.

New York City has agreed to pay 17 million US dollars (Rs 1,41,60,49,850) to settle a lawsuit filed by two Muslim-American women who were arrested in 2017 for removing their hijabs for mug shots.

 

 

On March 16, 2018, Jamilla Clark and Arwa Aziz sued the city after being forced to remove their head coverings in front of numerous men.

Clark was arrested on January 9, 2017, and Aziz was arrested on August 30, 2017.

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As per a report by the New York Times, Clark was arrested for filing a bogus protective order against her abusive husband, alleging the New York Police Department (NYPD) threatened prosecution if she didn’t remove her hijab.

“When they forced me to take off my hijab, I felt as if I were naked, I’m not sure if words can capture how exposed and violated I felt,” plaintiff Jamilla Clark said in a statement.

“I’m so proud today to have played a part in getting justice for thousands of New Yorkers. This settlement proves I was right all those years ago when I said it was wrong to remove my hijab for a mugshot. I hope no New Yorker ever has to experience what I went through.”

 

 

Aziz, who was also arrested for a fake protection order, said that she experienced emotional distress when her photo was taken, exposing her to numerous male police officers and over 30 inmates.

The settlement, totalling over 13 million dollars (Rs 1,08,28,61,650) after administrative and attorney fees, will be distributed among thousands of individuals expected to file claims related to similar incidents.

The financial settlement filed on Friday, March 5, still requires approval from Judge Analisa Torres of the US District Court for the Southern District of New York.

 

 

The settlement, according to Clark and Aziz’s attorney Albert Fox Cahn, is a crucial step forward for the religious and privacy rights of New Yorkers.

“This is a milestone for New Yorkers’ privacy and religious rights,” Cahn said.

He added, “The NYPD should never have stripped these religious New Yorkers of their head coverings and dignity. This wasn’t just an assault on their rights but on everything our city claims to believe in. After 6 years and endless hours of litigation, I’m so proud that we can finally help the thousands of New Yorkers the NYPD targeted.”

 

 

“Hopefully this settlement will send a resonating incentive to police departments in New York and around the country to respect the religious obligations of all people,” Afaf Nasher, executive director of the New York chapter of the nonprofit Council on American-Islamic Relations, said in a statement.

“We send our appreciation to the Muslim women who bravely persisted with this litigation, prompting policy change that benefits many with similar religious garb requirements.”

In 2020, the New York Police Department (NYPD) changed its policy to allow women to wear head coverings for mug shots as long as their faces were visible.

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