Muslim sues judge who barred veil

Woman claims her religious rights were violated when asked to remove head scarf.

A Muslim woman who was told she had to remove her veil if she wanted to testify in 31st District Court in Hamtramck filed a federal lawsuit Wednesday against the judge who made the ruling.

Ginnah Muhammad filed the complaint against Judge Paul Paruk, alleging he violated her religious rights and denied her equal access to the courts.

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Muhammad had gone to small claims court last October in a dispute with a car rental company when Paruk said she could not testify unless she removed her veil, the lawsuit alleges.

“If in fact, you do not wish to do it, then I cannot go forward with your case and I have to dismiss your case,” Paruk told the woman, according to a transcript attached to the complaint filed by Dearborn Heights lawyer Nabih Ayad.

Muhammad refused and Paruk dismissed the case, the lawsuit alleges.

Paruk did not return a phone call.

“I’m a human being and I wanted to come to court to get justice,” Muhammad said at a news conference Wednesday outside the federal courthouse in Detroit.

“When I walked out, I just really felt empty, like the courts didn’t care about me.”

The Quran doesn’t explicitly require women to cover their face, but many Muslim women wear a hajib or other covering as a sign of piety and modesty.

Muhammad said if Paruk does not understand religious rights he should be removed from the bench.

Her litigation with Enterprise Rent-A-Car continues, because the car rental company later brought a complaint against Muhammad for alleged damage to a car she rented.

A hearing in that case is set for April 18. Ayad said he wants U.S. District Judge John Feikens to order a stay in the case. Also, Ayad said he will bring a motion in 31st District Court asking Paruk to recuse himself from hearing it.

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