In order to resolve a lawsuit filed by two Muslim-American women who claimed the police violated their rights by making them take off their hijabs before being photographed, New York City agreed to pay $17.5 million.

The initial class action settlement includes requirements for both men and women to take off religious clothing before being photographed. The filing was made on Friday in federal court in Manhattan and needs to be approved by U.S. District Judge Analisa Torres.

After deducting legal expenses and costs, payouts will come to approximately $13.1 million; but, if enough of the more than 3,600 qualified class members file claims, the amount might go up. The amount paid to each beneficiary will range from $7,824 to $13,125.

New York City will pay $17.5 million for forcing women to remove their hijabs for mug shots

The settlement ends the case that Jamilla Clark and Arwa Aziz filed in 2018. They claimed that being compelled to take off their hijabs for their mugshots the year before in Manhattan and Brooklyn, respectively, caused them to feel traumatised and ashamed.

Due to their alleged fraudulent protection orders, both had been arrested. Their attorneys compared taking off the hijabs to a strip search.

In a statement given by her attorneys, Clark said, “I felt as though I was naked when they forced me to take off my hijab.” “I’m not sure if words can capture how exposed and violated I felt.”

2020 saw the New York Police Department give in to pressure and allow both sexes to cover their heads in mug pictures as long as their faces were visible.

A representative for the city’s legal department, Nicholas Paolucci, stated that “this settlement resulted in a positive reform for the NYPD.” “The agreement carefully balances the department’s respect for firmly held religious beliefs with the important law enforcement need to take arrest photos.”

Other religious headwear was also included by the new legislation, such as Sikh turbans and Jewish yarmulkes and wigs.

When searching for weapons or contraband, police officers of the same gender may momentarily remove their head coverings.

Clark and Aziz’s attorney, Albert Fox Cahn, stated that the agreement “sends a powerful message that the NYPD can’t violate New Yorkers’ First Amendment rights without paying a price.”

The settlement is available to anybody who were made to remove their head coverings between March 16, 2014, and August 23, 2021.