Hijab allowed in Georgia Courtrooms


hijab-demo-17jan04-741Any form of religious expression which is incontrovertibly linked to a religion should be classified as free speech in America and therefore the bearer or wearer should be allowed to go wherever need be.  It was disgraceful for personnel in a Georgia court room to cite a Muslim woman for contempt of court and sentence her to 10 days in prison for the “offense” of wearing her religiously mandated scarf to court.  She wasn’t scheduled to testify, she wasn’t a defendant or lawyer in court, she was merely accompanying a relative and was met at the door with the State’s infringement on her right to freedom of religion.  That has now changed, for the Muslim citizens of Georgia.

Georgia courtrooms will allow religious headgear after last year’s arrest of a Muslim woman who refused to remove her headscarf in a west Georgia courthouse.The Judicial Council of Georgia voted unanimously this week to allow religious and medical headgear into Georgia courtrooms. It also allows a person to request a private inspection if a security officer wants to conduct a search.

“If this had been a nun, no one would have required her to remove her habit,” said Georgia Supreme Court Chief Justice Carol Hunstein, who heads the Judicial Council. “I think this is a good rule, and I think it’s clear.”

The policy shift stems from the December 2008 arrest of Lisa Valentine, who was ordered to serve 10 days in jail for contempt of court after she refused to remove her hijab at a courtroom in Douglasville, a town of about 20,000 people west of Atlanta. She was released in less than a day.

Muslim rights activists were infuriated by the incident, pressing the U.S. Department of Justice to investigate the incident and organizing a protest. The city also said its employees would take sensitivity training classes.

City officials at the time said they were trying to follow courtroom rules that restricted headgear, but the city said the officer who detained Valentine should have sought a solution that “would preserve the spirit of the law.”

Valentine, who did not immediately return phone messages Friday, said she was accompanying her nephew to a hearing when officials stopped her at the metal detector and told her she couldn’t enter the courtroom with the headscarf, known as a hijab.

She said she was stopped by officers when she objected and turned to leave, and that she was later brought before a municipal court judge who ordered her held for contempt of court.

City officials did not immediately return phone calls seeking comment, but Douglasville Police Chief Joe Whisenant characterized the incident at the time as a miscommunication.

The police department said in a news release that Valentine was found in contempt for fighting with one of the officers, not for wearing a scarf. The city said she was released after it was determined there had not been a fight.

Muslims are just as much a part of the American fabric as any other ethnic group and their rights as citizens cannot and should not be abridged because of personal dislikes or community wide prejudices.  Personal likes and dislikes have no place in determining what is legal and illegal.  The Constitution, and particularly the 1st amendment  says in clear language that the legislative body of this Republic cannot make any law prohibiting the free exercise of any religion.  In this regard we are different and better than our European cousins who bend the rules to satisfy contemporary societal mores usually directed towards those they deem distasteful.  Whether we like it or not, we have become a pluralistic society that is home to people of faiths, colors, creeds that span the entire breath of human existence; we must live under this umbrella of law that has been developed throughout the lifetime of America, sometimes carefully and deliberately, and at other times impulsively yet judiciously.  To do otherwise would make us criminals before the law and before our Creator.

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WIFE OF NC TERRORISM SUSPECT DESCRIBES ELABORATE POLICE RUSE

McClatchey Papers

The wife of Daniel Boyd, accused of being a terrorist ringleader, said Tuesday that her husband and two sons are “completely innocent” of charges that they plotted to kill themselves and others in the name of Islam.

Meeting at a restaurant in Garner on Tuesday afternoon, Sabrina Boyd sat covered head to toe in traditional Muslim garb, only her brown almond eyes visible. She and her husband, who years ago had military training in Afghanistan and fought with Muslim rebels against the Soviets, were committed to living pure and honest lives, she said. They believed in helping their neighbors and they attempted, on occasion, to help the children of immigrant Muslims hold their faith while growing up amid the pressures of American culture.

“My husband was not plotting,” Boyd said. “It’s premature for everyone to jump on the guilty bandwagon.”

Leaders of the Muslim American Society’s Raleigh branch made a similar point earlier in the day at a news conference held to urge the media not to convict the men before they’ve had a trial.

But Boyd, a 41-year-old mother of five and U.S.-born convert to Islam, reserved her sharpest comments for what she called a cruel trap that law enforcement authorities set up to get her out of her house Monday while agents scoured it for documents after the arrest of her husband, two sons and four other men.

Boyd, whose family lives in the Johnston County community of Willow Spring, described a harrowing experience Monday afternoon when she answered the door to find a man she thought was a family friend wearing a shirt that appeared to be bloodied. He told her that Daniel and their three sons, Dylan, Noah and Zakariya, were in a serious car crash. He asked her to get into a Highway Patrol cruiser that would take her to Duke Hospital, where they were being treated.

Boyd summoned her daughter and pregnant daughter-in-law. They wrapped their heads in scarves, grabbed their Qurans and flew out the door. For Boyd, it was a particularly painful experience. Her 16-year-old son, Luqman, died in a car crash near their home in 2007.

When they arrived at Duke Hospital, the cruiser took them to a construction site at the rear of the facility. A man dressed as a doctor came out and asked whether she was the wife. When she said yes, he extended his hand. She told him she does not shake men’s hands. He then grabbed her wrist and handcuffed her.

“I’m not a doctor. I’m an agent and your family is not in the hospital,” he told her. “You’re being detained, and you need to cooperate with us.”

Boyd estimates she was then surrounded by 30 agents who frisked her and asked whether she had weapons or weapons of mass destruction.

They drove her in a car, separate from her daughter and daughter-in-law, to the Johnston County’s Sheriff’s Department, where she picked up Noah, 15, who was not arrested.

“That was an awful dirty trick,” Boyd said she told the agents. “You guys pulled a horrific lie on me and on my daughters. You know we’ve been through this before.”

U.S. District Attorney George E. B. Holding declined to respond to Boyd’s version. “I am sticking to the four corners of the indictment. We try our cases in court and won’t go back and forth before then,” he said Tuesday.

Trips called pilgrimages

Boyd said the many trips the family made abroad, especially to Jerusalem, were pilgrimages to give her sons an exposure to the Arabic language and a chance to experience the daily rhythms of life in predominantly Muslim communities.

“The point of a pilgrimage is to see the Al-Aksa mosque, the Dome of the Rock, to hear the call to prayer and to make a prayer,” she said.

Boyd said her husband and sons attempted to make two trips to Israel. Daniel and Noah were admitted in 2006. One year later, when her husband wanted to take Zakariya to Jerusalem to help him cope with his brother’s death, the two were denied entry at the airport in Tel Aviv. After being detained for two days, they were flown to France.

As to charges her family stockpiled military-style weapons, Boyd said her family enjoyed hunting and shooting. “They exercise their constitutional right to bear arms,” she said.