New York to Pay $17.5 Million for Forcing Removal of Hijabs in Mug Shots

New York City has agreed to pay $17.5 million to settle a lawsuit filed by two women who said their rights were violated when they were forced to remove their hijabs before the police took their arrest photographs.

The financial settlement filed on Friday, which still requires approval by Judge Analisa Torres of U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, is the latest development in the class-action lawsuit filed in 2018 by Jamilla Clark and Arwa Aziz, two Muslim women who said they felt shamed and exposed by the police officers’ actions.

“When they forced me to take off my hijab, I felt as if I were naked; I’m not sure if words can capture how exposed and violated I felt,” Ms. Clark said in a statement. “I’m so proud today to have played a part in getting justice for thousands of New Yorkers.”

In response to the lawsuit, the Police Department in 2020 changed its policy to allow religious people to be photographed in head coverings, as long as the coverings were not obstructing their faces.

Damages from the settlement, which total just over $13 million once administrative costs and lawyers’ fees are deducted, will be split among the thousands of people who are expected to file eligible claims.

Nicholas Paolucci, a spokesman for the city’s Law Department, did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the settlement.

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