Muslim Group Says Jail Violated West County Woman's Rights

County law enforcement say public safety is the concern preventing anyone incarcerated from being able to wear certain accessories.

An officer at the St. Louis County Jail this month allegedly forced a woman from Ballwin to remove her headscarf or hijab in violation of the woman's Muslim religious practices.

The woman, Basra Noor, 23, was arrested by St. Louis County Police in January near the located on Weidman Road because of a warrant related to an unregistered vehicle. Following her arrest, Noor was taken to the St. Louis County Justice Center in Clayton, where she was asked to remove the scarf.

“The jail asked her to remove the headpiece,” St. Louis County Police Spokesperson Rick Eckhard said. “That’s a condition of the jail to accept someone as a prisoner.”

According to a non-profit group affiliated with the incident, an officer at the jail allegedly told Noor, “Take it (the hijab) off or we will take it off for you.”

Eckhard was quick to point out that Noor was not asked to remove her headscarf by the arresting officer. Rather, Noor was asked to do so only after being incarcerated.

"It's their policy and procedure," Eckhard said of the St. Louis County Jail security measures.

Following the incident, the St. Louis chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations has since asked that the St. Louis County Jail adopt a policy granting religious accommodations for Muslims who wear a hijab or religious headscarf.

The group's executive director, Faizan Syed, said there is a way to balance security with freedoms protected under the Constitution.

"Religious rights should not end at the jailhouse door," Syed said.

Syed noted that the U.S. Supreme Court recently refused to overturn a lower court ruling that said a Muslim woman "had the right to wear the scarf unless jailers could show it was a security risk."

In that case, the Muslim woman’s suit cited the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (RLUIPA), which prohibits state and local governments from imposing "a substantial burden on the religious exercise of a person residing in or confined to an institution."

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