TEHACHAPI, CA – Today, the Greater Los Angeles Area office of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR-LA) and the American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California (ACLU SoCal) sent a letter to the California Correctional Institution (CCI) demanding that its officers follow the law and allow Muslim women to wear their hijab, a religiously-mandated headscarf, during visits. Officers at the CCI in Tehachapi ordered a woman visiting her son to remove her hijab. They told her that if she refused their demand, they would forbid her from visiting her son.
In late September, Najat Drissi, whose faith dictates that she wear a headscarf in public at all times, traveled to the state prison in Tehachapi to visit her son whom she had not seen for six months. Officers forced her to take off her hijab in front of 100 people, walk through a metal detector and submit to a security check.  She was forced to spend the entire visit without her headscarf.
Many Muslims follow a dress code for both genders that emphasizes modesty. Many Muslim women have a strong belief that the modesty required by their faith includes covering their hair, neck and chest. Ms. Drissi exposed her head and felt publicly humiliated.
“Asking a Muslim woman to remove the hijab is akin to asking a nun to take off her habit,” said Jessica Price, staff attorney for ACLU SoCal.  “CCI leadership must remedy this immediately and ensure that officers follow federal law and existing state policies.”
According to the letter, the officers’ actions forcing Ms. Drissi to remove her headscarf violate a California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation policy, which states that Muslim headdress or Catholic habits are allowed during visitation. The letter also explains that the forced removal of her headscarf violates the First Amendment, which protects religious expression.
“The prison has no legal justification for forcing Ms. Drissi to remove her headscarf in public,” said CAIR-LA staff attorney Fatima Dadabhoy. “Its policy provides for religious accommodation and the prison must ensure that this policy is not arbitrarily enforced by officers.”
The letter demands that this illegal practice stop immediately.
Media Contact: Diana Rubio, 213.977.5252