18-year-old Alaa Massri said that she was arrested at a Black Lives Matter protest in Miami when her hijab was forcibly removed from her head for a booking photo, and she was forced to stay without it for several more hours.
According to Massri’s lawyer Khurrum Wahid, his client had been taken to the Miami-Dade Turner Guilford Knight Correctional Center where she was asked to remove her hijab for a booking photograph.
When she told the officers that the hijab was a part of her religious beliefs and that she did not wish to be photographed without it, it was forcibly removed from her head. She was then forced to stay without her hijab for around seven hours.
Photo Credit: CAIR on TV
According to Wahid, Massri's booking photo, in which she isn’t wearing her hijab, was distributed to several news outlets and began circulating on social media.
“The damage from that cannot be undone. That photograph is out there forever. This was a humiliating experience for her. Not just the arrest, but that her religious rights were violated,” Wahid told CNN.
“They consciously took away her rights,” he added.
Massri launched a Change.org petition a week ago, which read in part: This "completely disrespect(ed) her way of life. They consciously took away her rights to be a woman practicing Islam and spread an image she never thought would be out in the world."
Photo Credit: CAIR on TV
The petition asks that all charges against Massri to be dropped, her mug shot to be "taken down," and the officers involved be investigated.
A Miami-Dade County Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation spokesperson told WSVN: "Arrestees who claim or appear to be of a particular faith are allowed to keep their head covering once it has been searched for contraband and the booking photograph has been taken. We are committed to ensuring that individuals' faith-based beliefs and practices are respected and will review this incident to ensure compliance with our policies and this commitment."
However, Wahid maintained: "They should have allowed her to keep her hijab on. They can easily do a search in a private room with a same-sex officer. There is absolutely no reason not to give her back her hijab after the search or there to be a booking photo without her hijab on. Either the officers ignored the policy in place or the policy is simply not strong enough."
Photo Credit: Facebook/Alaa Massri
Omar Saleh, a lawyer for the Council of American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), commented on Massri’s case: "The arrest which results in the removal of a hijab during booking and prolonged removal of the hijab is a legal issue and severe violation, not just of the 1st and 14th Amendment, but also the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act. Forcing a woman to remove her hijab causes humiliation, mental anguish and distress."
Massri was released on $5,000 bond.