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Police Wouldn't Let Muslim Woman Wear Hijab After Wrongful Arrest: Lawsuit

By James Fanelli | February 21, 2017 8:23pm
 Rabab Musa said she was arrested and detained for more than six hours before she was released.
Rabab Musa said she was arrested and detained for more than six hours before she was released.
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DNAinfo

TIMES SQUARE — A Muslim mother of four was wrongfully arrested and had her religious rights violated when NYPD officers handcuffed her as she left a Starbucks, removed her hijab and detained her for more than six hours without letting her put the headscarf back on, a new lawsuit charges.

Rabab Musa said in the lawsuit filed Monday against the police department that the ordeal left her humiliated because officers refused to let her wear the hijab, even though men could see her.

"The hijab is a sign of modesty for women in the Islamic faith and those who wear it do so in part to cover their hair from the opposite sex," her lawsuit says. "For Muslim women who wear hijab, being forced to remove the hijab in public and being paraded around without it is akin to being paraded around naked."

Musa, 34, said she was arrested on Sept. 6, 2016, after she left a Starbucks in Times Square while she was heading home to her family. Officers handcuffed her and took her to the Midtown South Precinct, according to police. 

There she was searched and placed in a cell and denied the right to call her family.

After several hours, two officers handcuffed her again and transported her to a Brooklyn precinct stationhouse, the lawsuits says.

There she was strip searched and her hijab was once again taken from her. She said a police officer also took her picture on his cellphone without her consent.

After a few hours passed, officers interrogated her and demanded that she "confess to what she did," the lawsuit says.

Musa, who had never been arrested before, repeatedly insisted to officers that she had done nothing wrong.

The officers "nonetheless interrogated her for more than an hour, seeking to get her to confess to something."

The lawsuit says that at about 12:30 a.m. — after more than six and a half hours in custody — officers released her without any charges. Musa said she had to find her own way back to her Midtown apartment from Brooklyn.

"One of the most astounding things here is she was handled by several officers, none of whom wanted to tell her why they were detaining her," her lawyer, Aymen Aboushi, told DNAinfo New York.

Aboushi said since the wrongful arrest Musa has exhibited psychological and emotional trauma.

"She doesn't like to leave her house," he said. "She gets very apprehensive and has panic attacks when officers come near her."

The NYPD and the city Law Department did not immediately respond to a request for comment.