Tuesday, December 23, 2008

CAIR Welcomes Georgia AG's Support for Hijab in Courts

/PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) today received a letter from Georgia Attorney General Thurbert E. Baker supporting the principle of religious accommodation in that state's courtrooms.

CAIR recently sent a letter to Baker asking him to bring sanctions against a Douglasville, Ga., judge who has repeatedly barred Muslim women wearing religiously-mandated headscarves, or hijabs, from entering his courtroom.

Last week, a Muslim woman was jailed and then released following a dispute over whether she could enter the judge's courtroom while wearing her hijab. The woman's release came after CAIR intervened in the case.

In the past year, other Muslim women have either been jailed under similar circumstances or barred from that judge's court.

In his letter to CAIR National Legal Counsel Nadhira F. Al-Khalili, Attorney General Baker wrote in part:

"[Courtroom policies] must be designed in such a way so as not to unnecessarily or inappropriately infringe on individuals' rights to observe their religious practices, including the wearing of religious garments...[I]t is difficult to imagine a security concern that could not be addressed in a way that would also accommodate an individual's religious practices related to dress. Religious freedom is a cornerstone of this nation's constitution and should be vigorously protected."

Baker sent a copy of his letter to the Georgia Judicial Qualifications Commission to alert them to the issue "for whatever action they deem appropriate." He also said he would participate in any effort by the chief justice of the Supreme Court of Georgia to develop uniform standards on religious accommodation in Georgia courtrooms. The chief justice also received a copy of Baker's letter.

"We thank Attorney General Baker for his support of religious freedom and will work with state officials to ensure that all Georgians have unfettered access to that state's legal system," said CAIR National Communications Director Ibrahim Hooper.

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