MILPITAS, Calif. - The Santa Clara Sheriff's Office denied Saturday that one of its deputies forcibly removed a hijab of a Muslim woman that was arrested and booked in a Milpitas correctional facility.
The statement came days after the Council on American-Islamic Relations in the Bay Area (CAIR-SFBA) said the Muslim woman, Asia Aden, had her hijab "violently yanked" from her while being booked into Elmwood Correctional Facility, even though she asked to keep the headwear out of religious beliefs.
"The Sheriff's Office received the complaint and reviewed the surveillance footage. Force was not used to remove the Hijab and in fact the complainant was asked to remove it herself," the Sheriff's public information office said.
"In general, these garments must be searched upon entering the facility before they are returned or another is issued. The Sheriff's Office is committed to protecting people's religious rights while also ensuring the safety of everyone in the facilities," the law enforcement agency explained.
According to the Sheriff's Office, its collaboration with CAIR after a similar concern in 2021 led to the creation of its "Religious Practices policy" to ensure that anyone wearing a Hijab, Kufi, Turban or Yarmulke will be "reasonably accommodated, subject to the compelling interest for facility security or to prevent self-harm."
"The booking staff was educated on the policy update," the law enforcement agency said.
The CAIR-SFBA has demanded a public apology and monetary settlement from the Sheriff's Office over the issue, which the advocacy group noted as not new at Elmwood.
"This was not the first incident of its sort to occur at Elmwood, but it needs to be the last. Santa Clara County and the Sheriff's Office promised to implement policy changes and training in 2021, and we are now left questioning their effectiveness," CAIR-SFBA senior civil rights counsel Jeffrey Wang said.