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OC Sheriff's Department Settles Head Scarf Lawsuit With Muslim Woman

SANTA ANA (CBS/AP) —  An Orange County Muslim woman who was forced to remove her head scarf by jailers has settled a civil rights lawsuit.

Souhair Khatib of Anaheim and her husband pleaded guilty in 2006 to a misdemeanor welfare fraud violation and were given community service, the American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California told City News Service.

When Khatib went to ask for an extension to complete the service, a judge ordered her jailed. She claimed jailers in a courthouse holding cell forced her to remove the religious scarf because it could be used as a weapon.

She sued in 2007 for religious discrimination.

"I praise Allah and thank Him that I live in a country where I can practice my religion freely. While not everyone understands Islam or what it requires of me, I'm grateful that the U.S. government protects my right to fulfill my duty to Allah, whether at work, on a public street or, yes, even in a sheriff's holding facility," Khatib said.

The ACLU says, under the settlement, county officials will no longer require Muslim women in custody to remove their headscarves.

"It's a landmark settlement," ACLU attorney Mark Rosenbaum told City News Service. "It means religious freedom doesn't stop at the courthouse door. Muslim women inside the facility will be allowed to honor their religious views without having to sacrifice them to the security concerns of Orange County law enforcement."

The Orange County Sheriff's Department says it's given its officers new training about the scarves and released the following statement:

"The Orange County Sheriff's Department respects the constitutionally guaranteed religious rights of all persons. As agreed to in the settlement, we have implemented new policies and conducted training with our personnel specific to the wearing of religious head garments. These changes will ensure the security needs of our custodial facilities are met and at the same time respect the religious freedoms of those held in our custody.

"In addition, the department has established a quarterly meeting with our religious volunteers from the various faiths, including Islam, to ensure our personnel are sensitive to the needs of our inmate population and to find ways to enhance the services they provide.

"Maintaining the balance of Constitutional guarantees with the safety and well-being of those entrusted into our custody is a dynamic undertaking and we will continue to work with our community partners to meet that challenge."

(TM and © Copyright 2013 CBS Local Media, a division of CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2010 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)


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