Two civil rights groups are alleging Tulsa County sheriff’s deputies forced a Muslim woman to remove her hijab in public in front of male deputies while attempting to enter the county courthouse.
A spokeswoman for the sheriff’s office disputed the allegations, saying female deputies asked the woman to lift her head covering after it set off metal detectors at courthouse security.
Suha Elqutt was attempting to enter the Tulsa County Courthouse when she “was denied entry, then forced to remove her hijab in public and in the presence of several male deputies,” Council on American-Islamic Relations Civil Rights Director Veronica Laisure said.
Laisure states in a news release that the council and the American Civil Liberties Union intend to file a petition in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Oklahoma on Elqutt’s behalf. They argue the sheriff’s office “is constitutionally required to make reasonable accommodations for sincerely held religious beliefs.”
The alleged incident occurred in early April, Sheriff’s Office spokeswoman Casey Roebuck said. Roebuck disputed the two groups recounting of events.
“I’m familiar with it and can tell you none of that is true,” Roebuck said.
Security wands used by deputies detected metal near the woman’s head. Roebuck said the deputies then requested two female deputies to assist in verifying there were no weapons.
The female deputies escorted Elqutt to an area outside the courthouse, near the building’s basement entrance, and asked Elqutt to lift her hijab “out of view” of the male deputies, Roebuck said.
Roebuck said there are no locations inside the courthouse for private security screenings.
CAIR and ACLU representatives state in the news release they will hold a news conference at 1 p.m. Tuesday at the Dennis R. Neill Equality Center.