Michigan courts given leeway to force veil removal

(CNN)   Michigan’s Supreme Court issued an order Tuesday allowing lower state courts to “exercise reasonable control” over the appearance of witnesses and parties, a rule change proposed after a Muslim woman refused to remove an Islamic garment in a small claims court.

The order allows courts “reasonable control over the appearance of parties and witnesses” so as to “ensure that the demeanor of such persons may be observed and assessed by the fact-finder and ensure the accurate identification of such person.”

The order, which amends a rule of the Michigan Rules of Evidence, is effective September 1.

The amendment was prompted by a 2006 small claims case in Michigan filed by Ginnah Muhammad, who wore a niqab — a garment that covers the entire face and head, except for the eyes — to court, the order said.

According to the Detroit Free Press, Muhammad was contesting a $2,750 repair bill from a car rental company because she said thieves broke into the vehicle she was using.

As she prepared to testify, Judge Paul Paruk asked her to remove her niqab, saying he needed to be able to see her face to tell whether she was telling the truth, according to court documents.

“I can’t see certain things about your demeanor and temperament that I need to see in a court of law,” Paruk said at the time.

Muhammad refused, saying that she was a practicing Muslim and would take off the veil only in front of a female judge.

Paruk said a female judge was not available and told Muhammad she could remove the niqab or have her case dismissed — she chose the latter, according to court documents.

She sued the judge in federal district court, which declined to exercise jurisdiction over the case. Muhammad has since appealed to the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals.

The Michigan chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations issued a statement saying that if the amended rule was interpreted broadly, it could “not only adversely affect Muslim females who wear the head scarf, but could also be used to violate Jewish, Sikh, and other people of faiths’ constitutional rights under the First Amendment while in Michigan courts.”

It added, “As a civil rights advocacy group, CAIR-MI is concerned about individuals who may be reluctant to report crimes or petition the courts out of fear that their religious rights may be violated.”

Other religious groups, as well as the American Civil Liberties Union and domestic violence groups, had opposed the rule change, the Detroit Free Press reported. The ACLU had asked that the court add a sentence to the rule saying “that no person shall be precluded from testifying on the basis of clothing worn because of a sincerely held belief,” the newspaper reported in May.

CAIR also said that it would announce on Wednesday the filing of a federal lawsuit against a Wayne County, Michigan, judge who had asked a Muslim woman to remove her head scarf in court.

“The Muslim plaintiff felt so intimidated by the judge’s repeated demand that she eventually removed her head scarf,” the organization said in a statement released Tuesday.

CAIR-MI is a co-plaintiff in the lawsuit being filed on behalf of the Michigan woman, who is a member of the group.

Last month, the Judicial Council of Georgia adopted a policy allowing religious head coverings in the state’s courtrooms, the Atlanta Journal Constitution reported.


5 Responses to Michigan courts given leeway to force veil removal

  • If anyone goes to court and pretends to be somebody else for the proceedings because a scary cat of religion issues Judge fails to tell the person to SHOW HIS OR HER FACE and present a valid PHOTO ID, it would be a PROBLEM. Are the muslim women taking their pictures for their passports when they come to this country and are they shown in the photos wearing a MASK? answer: NO. Are the muslim women allowed to have their driver license showing them wearing a MASK? answer: NO. Are the muslim religion sect people trying to CONVERT everyone else to their religion sect, Answer: YES. DO the muslim religion sect people come to this UNITED STATES OF AMERICA to CHANGE AMERICA’s LAWS for the convenience of their religion/beliefs/sect? answer: YES. SHould anyone be allowed to do this? answer:: NO!, if they dont like our laws let them GO BACK to their countries and try to change THEIR LAWS THERE as in; WOMEN SHOULD BE ALLOWED TO GET A DIVORCE, GO TO SCHOOL, BECOME A CAREER PERSON, AND ALLOWED TO SAY NO TO WEARING THE “NON-ENTITY SHAPELESS BLACK DRESS” THE MALES MAKE THEM WEAR. So THERE!

  • Practice your religion, that is fine. I can respect everyone’s beliefs. However when you are in a court of law, in America you will do as the judge tells you. There is no rule that says you must cover everything in the Koran (Quran). Modesty is what is called for. You can be modest and still follow American rules/laws. You are not in a foreign land and you should not expect to be treated like you are. Stop confusing religion with culture.

  • Removing a head or face covering in a court of law is an act and a sign of respect for the laws of this country and for those officials that are doing their duty to make sure those laws are followed. The most common sense reason for the removal of head and face coverings is the establishment of identity. They have to verify that you are who you say you are. Yes the Koran teaches modesty but in a court of law, the judge is not looking at you with modesty in mind. They are establishing identity. In my humble and common sense opinion, the lawsuit is a waste of time and money.

  • As a muslim woman who wears the Face Veil i am sickened with your views. How can you call yourselves truthers? Our gov. is using Islam as a pawn and people are falling for it……i.e., you. To tell a woman to show her face is equal to telling a non-muslim woman to strip to her undies in front of men she does not know nor comfortable in front of. Do you want a judge telling your mother or DAUGHTER to strip? of course not!

  • rivirivi—your comment is WAY far from the truth. Have you ever asked a convert to Islam WHY they converted? you cant just assume us muslims are converting people left and right, or people who come from other coutries are trying to change our constitution. Look into the religion and figure out why they become muslims. In Islaam we are to WAIT until someone askes us about our faith, not bombard them with it. We dont go door to door at 9 am like some religions, or leaving material at your door which your MOST likely going to throw away anyway. we believe its rude to do that. oh and guess what, there ARE non-muslim women who DO wear a scarf; for the same reasons as a muslim woman! if they were talking about a nun (who dress like us, shapeless black dress and all) had to take off her headcovering would you have a problem?????SO THERE

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