Head Scarf Ban for Cops Challenged in Ohio

     COLUMBUS, Ohio (CN) – A police force discriminates against female Muslim officers by barring them from wearing religious head scarves known as hijabs, civil rights groups claim.
     The Ohio chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations said it filed the complaint Thursday with the Ohio Civil Rights Commission on behalf of a Muslim recruit who dropped out of the police academy because of her treatment.
     Ismahan Isse, a Somali-American Muslim, says she quit the Columbus policy academy in March after she was told she could not wear her hijab while on duty.
     The city cites safety as its main concern for banning the scarves; specifically, that an assailant could use one to choke an officer during a confrontation, according to a statement on the complaint from the council.
     Uniformity among officers is also a concern for the capital city.
     In an interview with the Columbus Dispatch last week, Mayor Michael Coleman said that “when officers go out into the community, they should be identified as Columbus police officers, not Jewish police officers, not Hindus, Baptists or anything else.”
     Police Chief Kim Jacobs backed the mayor, and added that “if it’s a head scarf next week, it might be a burqa next week. There’s no legal way our advisors can stop that from happening.”
     The council’s staff attorney, Romin Iqbal, told the Dispatch, “We believe that the Ohio Constitution and Ohio civil-rights laws do allow people to express their faith, even if they’re employees of the government.”
     Isse told the Dispatch that the scarf was the main reason she left the academy, and that, “I want to remain myself.”
     Columbus is reportedly home to an estimated 45,000 Somalis, the country’s second-largest population.

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