When you get arrested and booked, the police take your mug shot. It’s standard procedure. After all, if the detainee later flees, or is suspected of some other crime in the future, it’s nice to have a photograph.

In Dearborn, Michigan, Malik Kazan, a Muslim woman, was arrested for driving with a suspended license. When she was being booked, she was asked to remove her hijab in order to be photographed.

She has now sued the police department, alleging violation of her First Amendment right to the free exercise of her religion. Our tax dollars will go to defending this action.

The Dearborn police issued a statement indicating that it is indeed their standard procedure to have women placed in custody take off the hijab in the presence of a woman officer. Police Chief Lee Garvin explained that “hats, caps and hijabs can contain concealable items that could pose a threat or chance of injury” to the police or to themselves.

From a cultural standpoint, we can understand the arrested woman’s embarrassment. But, assuming she is an immigrant, she chose to move to the United States, and to live under its protection and its laws. Indeed, if she originates from Saudi Arabia, the irony of her being arrested for driving would be worth noting, since women are not allowed to drive at all in that kingdom.

And if Ms. Kazan was born here, what has she been learning in school concerning the concept of equal treatment under the law? The civil rights movement of the 1960s was waged and won under that banner. It’s not a large step from the differential treatment Ms. Kazan seeks to the “separate but equal” standard of treatment that we discarded under the moral guidance and leadership of Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Of course, there is another layer of irony to be explored, in that Ms. Kazan is asserting her right to the free exercise of religion. That’s something that is missing throughout the Middle East, which has rarely been less tolerant of non-Muslim faiths than it is right now.

When American non-Muslim women visit a Middle Eastern country, good manners requires that they follow the customs of that country as to their attire, and these customs are at times enforced by law. Indeed, France enforces a contrary law that prohibits the wearing of hijab.

But any person who is voluntarily residing in Middle East, or in France, or in America, must follow the laws of their host country or face the consequences. Ms. Kazan seems not to have learned that lesson. It’s worth asking: What has she been learning instead?

 

 

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