Chicago Tribune: Scarf pulled off by cops, Muslims say

Dozens of area Muslims have placed protest calls to Arlington Heights Mayor Arlene Mulder demanding that charges against a Muslim civil rights protester be dropped after allegations were made that police ripped off the woman’s headscarf during her October arrest.

Between 80 and 100 calls have been received at Mulder’s office since last week after the Council on American-Islamic Relations, a Washington-based Muslim advocacy group, sent out mass e-mails asking people to protest the incident, said Maria Croy, an assistant to Village Manager William Dixon.

The mayor and the village were not involved in the police matter other than logging the number of calls that came in and passing them on to the Cook County state’s attorney’s office, Croy said.

“We just thank them for calling,” Croy said.

The protester, Rehana Khan of Chicago, was arrested Oct. 15 with four other people while demonstrating in Arlington Heights in support of immigrant rights and against the Minutemen, a group that opposes illegal immigration. Khan is to appear in court Tuesday.

Khan is charged with battery and resisting arrest. She is accused of hitting a female officer and trying to break free while being arrested, authorities said.

Khan alleges that police handcuffed her and then ripped off her headscarf, or hijab, which observant Muslim women believe Allah commanded them to wear, according to Christina Abraham of the Council on American-Islamic Relations.

Police allowed her to put on the headscarf during the ride to jail but then forced her to remove it again while she was being charged with resisting arrest, Abraham said.

“It’s analogous to having a blouse ripped off,” said council spokesman Ahmed Rehab. “It’s a state of forced nudity.”

Village prosecutor Ernest Blomquist III said the charges against Khan would not be dropped. He disputed the allegations of police misconduct.

“If it was a priest wearing a cross around his neck, we’d take that,” Blomquist said. “The police followed standard Police 101: how to protect yourself and others. It makes no difference what religion she is. She was singled out because she struck an officer.”

Assistant State’s Atty. Rich Karwaczka said Khan’s headscarf was “shifted” during the course of the arrest but was never pulled off. She was required to remove it during processing at the police station, which Karwaczka said is normal practice. “For safety reasons it always is [removed],” Karwaczka said.

Khan could not be reached for comment.

The incident has outraged some Muslims who learned about it via the e-mail from the Council on American-Islamic Relations, which often rallies people to protest anti-terrorism laws and derogatory comments about Islam.

“Would the police pull off a woman’s wig?” said Assad Busool, a professor at the American Islamic College in Chicago. “Do they strip people naked? No. Therefore there is no need to remove her head cover.”

In the past the Council on American-Islamic Relations has called on members to protest parts of the U.S. Patriot Act and the appointment of Daniel Pipes, a controversial academic, to the U.S. Institute of Peace.

It was unclear, however, how much this call to action had rallied Chicago’s Muslim community. Yousif Marei, host of a local radio show, said he was aware of the case but wasn’t sure how many of his listeners had heard about it. He said it had not come up on his show.

“I didn’t call,” Marei said. “I was busy with the radio station. But we need fairness to all, including Muslim Americans.”


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