A prominent national Islamic civil rights and advocacy group reported today that a Georgia Muslim seeking to contest a speeding ticket was allegedly barred from a courtroom in that state because she wears an Islamic headscarf, or hijab.
The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) said the woman was prevented from entering the Valdosta, Ga., courtroom of Municipal Court Judge Vernita Lee Bender earlier this week by uniformed officers who reportedly demanded that she remove her scarf.
According to the woman, the officers barred her entry despite being told that she wears the scarf for religious reasons and after she offered to let a female officer perform a body search. One of the officers allegedly stated that the denial of entry to the courtroom was due to “homeland security” and that allowing her to enter would show “disrespect” to the judge.
The officers reportedly summoned the clerk of court who told the Muslim woman that she could schedule a future court date. After being told that she would be unable to enter the court at any future date while wearing her scarf, the Muslim woman felt compelled to agree to a plea of nolo contendere and was fined $168.
Through the clerk of court, Judge Bender communicated an apology for the denial of entry, but was quoted as saying that “we have rules that everyone has to follow.”
In a letter to Georgia Attorney General Thurbert E. Baker, CAIR wrote: