A Muslim woman in Douglasville, Georgia was arrested yesterday after a judge found her in contempt of court for refusing to remove her hijab. Was it an example of religious intolerance?
Lisa Valentine, who is also known by her Muslim name, Miedah, was arrested at the Douglasville Municipal Court, where she was accompanying her nephew to settle a traffic violation. When she arrived at the courtroom she was stopped at the metal detector and told she would have to remove her headscarf to enter the courtroom:
Valentine’s husband, Omar Hall, said she was accompanying her nephew to address a traffic citation Tuesday when she was stopped at the metal detector and told she would not be allowed to enter the courtroom with a head scarf.
Hall said Valentine, an insurance underwriter, told the bailiff that she had been in courtrooms before with a scarf on; that removing it would be a religious violation. She became frustrated, then turned to leave and uttered an expletive, Hall said.
Valentine was arrested and sentenced to 10 days in jail, although she was released later that evening. According to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, "the reason for her release wasn't immediately clear." (We have an idea: Something about "absurd arrest"?)
Judge Keith Rollins, the man who sentenced her to jail, also threw out a Muslim woman for wearing a hijab in his courtroom last week. Rollins's reasoning is that there is ban on headgear in the courtroom and that he should be allowed to maintain "decorum" in his courtroom.
(Obviously, this is an easy argument to make, but would he have thrown out people from his courtroom who came to the courthouse with headcoverings for different religious reasons? Would he have thrown out cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy wearing hats or scarves to cover their heads?)
A poll on the Atlanta Journal-Constitution website asks readers if Muslim women should be allowed to wear hijabs in courtrooms and the results so far are extremely close with 47% in favor of Muslim women not wearing hijabs in courtrooms. (At "press time", i.e., the time this post was finished, there were a little over 3,000 respondents.) Wonder how the poll numbers will react as the day proceeds?