Muslim woman sues sheriff’s office, claiming she was forced to remove head scarf during jail booking

June 17, 2015

Dakroub – OCSO photo

By Allison Scarbrough. OCP Editor.

GRAND RAPIDS — A Muslim woman from Dearborn Heights is suing the Oceana County Sheriff’s Office for violating her civil rights after she claims she was forced to remove a religious head scarf as she was being booked in the county jail last month for a charge of driving while license suspended (DWLS).

Fatme Dakroub, 34, claims she was forced to remove her hijab and that she was falsely arrested. She was arrested May 17 while she and several family members were on vacation at the Silver Lake Sand Dunes.

According to 78th District Court staff, Dakroub’s misdemeanor DWLS charge was dismissed in exchange for a guilty plea to a civil infraction of careless driving.

Oceana County Sheriff Robert Farber is listed a defendant in the case along with the sheriff’s office, “John Doe Sheriff’s Officers” and Oceana County. Farber said he could not comment specifically on the case, because he has not been served a copy of the complaint as of Wednesday, June 17. “I am concerned about people and their civil rights,”


Dakroub – OCSO photo

Farber said. “The Oceana County Sheriff’s Office isn’t one that would ever want to violate someone’s civil rights.”

Dakroub’s mugshots were obtained by OCP from the sheriff’s office, and she is wearing a head scarf in the photos.

Dakroub’s 14-page complaint filed June 9 in the U.S. District Court in the Western District of Michigan alleges that she was humiliated and degraded by having to remove her scarf in front of male police officers, as well as male inmates. The complaint alleges that “male inmates made advances at her and hit on her” while she was not wearing the scarf.

“Dakroub is a practicing Muslim-American who was taken into custody by the Oceana Sheriff’s Department,” states the complaint. “Upon arrival at the Oceana Sheriff’s Department’s Office, Dakroub was required to go through the booking process. Dakroub was asked to remove her head covering. When Dakroub verbally expressed her disappointment and concern, the sheriff’s officer indicated that this was policy and she had no choice. Dakroub


Dakroub – OCSO photo

explained the religious importance and significance of her head covering, but her concerns fell on deaf ears. Dakroub requested that a female police officer conduct the booking process as opposed to the several male officers that began the process. The Oceana Sheriff’s Department denied that request and stated it could not be done and that Dakroub had to remove her head covering in front of all the male police officers and other inmates. Dakroub was forced to remove her head covering in violation of her religious beliefs. As a result of the foregoing deprivations of her First, Fourth, and Fourteenth Amendment rights, as well as her rights under the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act, Dakroub suffered severe humiliation, emotional distress, and discomfort.”

“Simply put, Dakroub was forced to remove her head scarf, against her will, and given no other option,” her attorney, Nabih H. Ayad, wrote in the complaint. “Dakroub reluctantly removed her head scarf in front of the three male officers.

“In accordance with her sincerely held religious beliefs, Dakroub wears a head scarf when she is in public and in the presence of men who are not members of her immediate family,” the complaint states.

“A substantial amount of Muslim women wear a head scarf, also known as a hijab, in accordance with their religious beliefs that are based on their understanding of the Koran, the primary holy book of the Muslim religion, as well as other religious texts. As part of her religious faith and practice, Dakroub wears a head scarf, covering her hair, ears, neck, and chest, when in public and when she is at home, if she is in the presence of men who are not part of her immediate family.

“On May 17, 2015, Dakroub was taking advantage of a rare opportunity to spend time with her family, including her daughter, in Oceana County, Michigan,” the complaint states. “Dakroub rented a Jeep vehicle from a local business to take her family around the local sand dunes. Dakroub, not being familiar with the area, became a little lost while driving around an awkwardly laid out parking lot. From a great distance away, an Oceana County Sheriff’s officer sped to the location of Dakroub and stopped his police cruiser directly in front of Dakroub’s jeep. Dakroub was told that she was speeding, although there was no radar or laser confirmation of such speeding. According to the officer, he simply ‘knew’ that Dakroub was speeding,” the complaint alleges.

“After taking Dakroub’s driver’s license and returning to the police cruiser for an extended period of time, the officer questioned Dakroub on whether she had a suspended license. Dakroub confirmed that there was no such suspension. Dakroub was asked to get out of the Jeep and was placed in handcuffs and placed under arrest. However, she was not told why she was under arrest,” the complaint alleges.

“Given no other option, and in fear of the consequences of not removing her headscarf, Dakroub reluctantly removed her head scarf (at the jail) in front of the three male officers,” the complaint claims. “Dakroub was then placed in a holding cell and was forced to sit there for approximately three hours without a head scarf in front of all the male officers as well as multiple other male inmates. Dakroub was further degraded and humiliated when male inmates made advances at her and hit on her when she was not wearing her head scarf. Dakroub was not permitted to put her head scarf on after being booked and searched.”

The lawsuit seeks compensatory, punitive and economic damages in a jury trial.


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