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Muslim woman files federal lawsuit over LAPD officers removing her hijab

LAPD headquarters
A Muslim woman is suing the LAPD for an incident in which she alleges several officers forcibly removed her hijab.
(Bob Chamberlin / Los Angeles Times)

A Muslim woman has alleged in a federal lawsuit filed Thursday that her civil and religious rights were violated when Los Angeles police officers pulled her from a Police Commission meeting and forcibly removed her religious head covering last year.

Nusaiba Mubarak, now 26, said during an online news conference that she was standing in line at the meeting, waiting to comment on a deadly LAPD shooting the year prior, when she was “aggressively manhandled by three police officers nearly twice my size, who without any warning grabbed me and pushed me to the wall, handcuffed me, and shoved me into another room where I was stripped of my hijab and humiliated.”

Mubarak, represented by attorneys from the Council on American-Islamic Relations chapter of Los Angeles, said police initially rushed into the area where she was lined up after another protester had gone over his allotted time to speak, but that there was no cause or reason given for her own detention and no justification for the removal of her hijab in the presence of male officers — a violation of Muslim religious tenets.

She was released without charge. The episode left her “shocked and quite terrified,” she said.

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Mubarak said she had attended the Police Commission meeting last September to denounce the October 2018 killing of Albert Ramon Dorsey. Dorsey was fatally shot by an LAPD officer after punching another officer in a locker room at a 24 Hour Fitness gym in Hollywood. LAPD Chief Michel Moore found that the shooting was justified, but the Police Commission disagreed, saying the officer had violated department policy.

Mubarak’s lawsuit is against the LAPD, the city of L.A., Moore, Det. Corey Harmon and four other unidentified LAPD officers. It says Mubarak is suing “to challenge illegal LAPD behavior that callously humiliated her, stripped her of a religious garment in front of others, and erased her chance to address the public body that oversees the very officers who violated her rights.”

The lawsuit alleges that a lack of LAPD policies that specifically protect individuals’ religious freedom to wear head coverings shows the city and the department permit such violations, and calls for the LAPD to reform its policies for arrests of Muslim women.

Josh Rubenstein, an LAPD spokesman, said the department could not comment on pending litigation.

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Lena Masri, CAIR’s national litigation director and one of Mubarak’s attorneys, said Mubarak’s experience reflects a broader trend in law enforcement.

“Muslim women across the country are having their hijabs senselessly removed by police officers, during even traffic stops for minor traffic violations, in court houses, in correctional facilities, and when having their booking photos taken,” Masri said.

Such actions are in direct violation of the women’s constitutional rights, and must be challenged, Masri said.

“The callousness that the LAPD officers exhibited towards Nusaiba was a senseless attack against her religious liberty,” she said.


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