Oceana County Reaches Settlement with Dearborn Woman Over Hijab

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GRAND RAPIDS — Oceana County reformed its booking process to accommodate Muslim women after a Dearborn resident sued its sheriff department for forcing her to remove the hijab.

Fatme Dakroub, 35, who was arrested for driving on an expired license, filed a federal lawsuit against the county a year ago. She accused the sheriff department of violating her religious freedom. Dakroub said she was asked to take off her headscarf in the presence of three male officers. Her request for a female officer was denied.

The Dearborn resident had a valid driver's license from the United Arab Emirates, which she used to rent a car while vacationing near Lake Michigan. She said the Oceana County Sherif Department contacted immigration authorities about her status, although she is a U.S. citizen.

Dakroub sitting in front of her family at the ACRL office, May 28, 2015

"It felt really insulting and humiliating," Dakroub told reporters at a press conference announcing the lawsuit in May 2015. "You feel so violated and you can’t do anything. I was scared that if I opposed what they were asking me, then something bad might happen, like what we’ve seen on TV. They might do something and then say that I resisted. That was the worst experience ever of my life."

As a part of the legal settlement with Dakroub, the county's new policies mandate that only female staff can be around if a woman is asked to remove a religious head covering. The county will also have scarves that detainees can use as temporary hijab-substitutes while being booked.

Dakroub did not receive any monetary compensation, according to Oceana County attorney James L. Dyer.

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