Valdosta Daily Times

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July 12, 2007

City meets with Muslims after courtroom ordeal

VALDOSTA, Ga. — Refusal to allow a Muslim woman to enter a courtroom while wearing a scarf over her head led to a meeting of city officials and representatives for the Council on American-Islamic Relations and the Georgia Association of Muslim Lawyers.

The topic was the city’s policy regarding the inspection and wearing of religious headscarves in local courtrooms.

A “spirit of cooperation” from all sides led to a productive meeting, according to CAIR communications coordinator Rabiah Ahmed.

“We made progress, and we are optimistic that the city and the court will do the right thing in this case,” Ahmed said.

During the meeting, city officials explained their policy and discussed in detail the interpretation and administration of that policy. The city also reaffirmed its position that its officials acted in good faith and in accordance with the law, according to a statement released by the city’s public information office.

“The city of Valdosta Municipal Court will continue to conduct court proceedings based upon the policy and its interpretation as discussed today (Wednesday),” the statement said. “The city will always consider suggestions that respect courtroom safety, but will also accommodate, to the extent reasonably possible, the varying religious practices of our increasingly diverse community.”

Representing the city at the meeting were City Attorneys George Talley and Tim Tanner, Chief Superior Court Judge Arthur McLane and Municipal Court Judge Vernita Lee Bender.

CAIR requested the meeting with the city after being contacted by Aniisa Karim, who was denied access to the Municipal Courtroom in June to contest a speeding ticket because she was wearing a traditional Islamic headscarf even after explaining to security that she wears the garment for religious purposes.

Karim, a Baltimore native who works for a local radio station, was not present at Wednesday’s meeting, but has remained in contact with CAIR representatives.

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