A Hammond, Ind., woman says she felt she and her Islamic faith were under attack Tuesday night when she declined a request to remove her head scarf during a visit to traffic court.
Yolanda Gray says she has been a Muslim her whole life and began wearing head scarves to signify her devotion to the Islamic religion. Gray said she was confronted about her head scarf once by a security guard at the entrance of City Hall and again by a court officer.
The security guard gave her no problem, she said, but a court officer threatened to make her leave the courtroom if she didn’t either show proof of her religion or remove the head scarf.
“I cannot believe that this is happening to me in America. In my life nothing like this has ever happened,” Gray said Wednesday.
Anthony Benak witnessed the confrontation and decided to step in when the court officer threatened to get physical.
“What I witnessed in the courtroom was just discrimination,” Benak recalled.
A Hammond City Attorney said Gray was only questioned about her head scarf because it wasn’t easily recognized as a religious head covering. Kristina Kantar said Gray was asked to step outside the courtroom to discuss the situation because she became very loud, and it was then that the court officer asked Gray to present a mosque card.
Kantar said that after Gray said she didn’t have one, the court officer left to speak with the judge. Kantar also stated Gray was never forced to leave. She said Gray was already gone when the court officer returned to inform her that the judge would allow her head scarf in court.
“Hammond respects all religious practices and did not in any way discriminate against Ms. Gray,” said Kantar.
Gray has since contacted the Council on American Islam Relations. They believe her constitutional rights were violated and said they would investigate the situation.