London – As revealed today in the Observer, a legal win by a Muslim woman, ‘Asiyah,’ who pursued a judicial review against the police after she was coerced to remove her hijab at Heathrow airport, is the latest event to highlight the Islamophobic nature of Schedule 7 stops.
The Police eventually settled and made a substantial damages payment to ‘Asiyah’. They conceded:
That removing her Hijab and taking photos of her breached her human rights.
The retention of the photos was therefore unlawful.
The taking of her DNA and fingerprints was unlawful due to lack of informed consent.
The retention of her DNA and fingerprint data was unlawful.
An increasing number of Muslim women have approached CAGE to complain of being “violated” and “humiliated” at Schedule 7 stops, by officers compelling them to remove their hijabs for photographs.
This has followed a letter CAGE sent to the APPG on British Muslims last year and a petition we launched where over 30 000 people have shared our concerns and demanded that the APPG take immediate action to investigate the Home Office over the discrimination recorded at Schedule 7 stops.
The notion that forcing a woman to remove her hijab, akin to a type of religious strip search, has anything to do with the stated purpose of Schedule 7 – to assess whether an individual is a security risk – does not stand up to scrutiny.
‘Asiyah’ who won her case against the Police said:
“Being forced to remove my Hijab was the most dehumanising and embarrassing experience of my life. I was made to feel worthless. I felt that my honour had been violated. Schedule 7 is a horrifying experience for a young woman like myself. The fact that the police can behave in such a way without any repercussions is frightening.”
“It wasn’t easy challenging the Police, but with the help of CAGE and my lawyers, I was given the moral support to continue this case, so that no Muslim women should ever have to face this same violation.”
Anne McMurdie from Birnberg and Pierce Solicitors who represented ‘Asiyah’ said:
“Schedule 7 powers are draconian and wide-ranging. The police must exercise these extraordinary powers with respect for the rights of religious observance of those they stop.
“It is concerning that there is no guidance or policy about when a woman can be compelled to remove her hijab when she is detained under Schedule 7. This lack of guidance has resulted in cases where powers are exercised improperly, where women have been photographed unlawfully without their hijab against their wishes and their photograph has been retained, perhaps indefinitely, on a police database.”
Muhammad Rabbani, Director of CAGE said
“Asiyah’s victory is a testament to her strength of character and bravery. She pursued a judicial review against the Police in order to ensure no other Muslim woman faces what she had to go through. We are proud to have supported her throughout her case and many other women who have experienced the same.”
“It is clear the Police knew they were discriminating against Muslim women and therefore opted to settle in order to avoid Asiyah’s case setting a precedent for other women that have had their hijab forcibly removed. It’s high time Schedule 7 is scrapped.”
“Coercing Muslim women to remove their headscarves at Schedule 7, despite not being suspected of any wrongdoing, is a shocking violation with far reaching psychological impact. These revelations are evidence of the Islamophobic nature of Schedule 7 powers and why we’ve consistently called for their repeal.
“The APPG on British Muslims has a mandate to investigate Islamophobia. Following this case and the testimonies that we’ve made public, the APPG must take immediate steps to investigate the Home Office over its discriminatory operation of Schedule 7 powers.”
(NOTE: CAGE represents cases of individuals based on the remit of our work. Supporting a case does not mean we agree with the views or actions of the individual. Content published on CAGE may not reflect the official position of our organisation.)