St. Louis Co. Jail urged to allow female inmates to wear Muslim headscarves

Apr 17, 2012

A Muslim civil rights group is urging St. Louis County to revise its policy of requiring female Muslim inmates to remove religious headscarves. But the director of the jail cites a potential security risk.

The Council on American-Islamic Relations says a Ballwin, Mo., woman was jailed in January because of an unpaid traffic ticket.

She was ordered to remove her Islamic headdress, known as a hijab. The Muslim religion forbids women from exposing their head or neck to men outside the immediate family.

When the woman refused, a female officer removed the hijab in front of male inmates and officers.

Jail director Herb Bernsen says jail policy forbids head wear for security reasons, such as the possibility of concealing a weapon. But he says he is open to dialogue.