Muslim woman wins $85,000 lawsuit after police remove her hijab

Kirsty Powell
Kirsty Powell

Washington : A Muslim woman in the US has won $85,000 in damages from the authorities after her hijab was forcibly removed in police custody in 2016.

During the incident, Kirsty Powell and her husband were pulled over by police for driving a “low rider” car, according to the lawsuit filed by Powell. She was arrested after police found a warrant under her name for a shoplifting incident, CNN reported on Friday.

The woman’s husband requested a female officer handle the arrest, but the arresting officers denied the request and told Powell she had to remove her hijab, according to the report.

Powell spent the night in prison without her headscarf. It was returned when her husband posted her bond. The lawsuit stated that Powell was “forced to appear in a publicly available booking photo without her religious headwear”.

“As a result of the foregoing deprivations of the free exercise of her religion, Powell suffered severe discomfort, humiliation, and emotional distress,” the lawsuit stated.

Powell filed the lawsuit in April 2016, alleging the police department had violated her First Amendment rights.

“She cried throughout the ordeal and experienced humiliation when both her religious beliefs and personal integrity were violated,” according to the lawsuit.

The city of Long Beach, California, will pay $85,000 to settle the lawsuit filed by Powell. The Council on American-Islamic Relations announced the settlement while praising Powell.

“We commend Kirsty Powell for choosing to defend her right to religious freedom and taking action.”

Powell had told the council that she wanted to be the last Muslim woman who has this experience. “I want my Muslim sisters to always feel comfortable and safe wearing a hijab and to stand up for what’s right,” she said.



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