A Muslim Sister’s Encounter with the DC Police and a Call for Support

AsSalamuAlaykum, below you will find the email that was sent to two attorneys regarding my wife ( this letter is from brother Sulayman and it is not my wife but his) and the way that she was treated while in the custody of the Washington DC Metropolitan Police.

I’m sending this email to you all because on May 14th the PSA (Police Service Area) 607 will be having their monthly meeting. We are asking that we all attend this meeting in full representation of the Muslim Community. We have to show the powers that be that we have a voice and situations like this will not be tolerated. In the SE part of Washington DC you not only have more Hispanics and Caucasians but you are now seeing more Muslims and our Police Department needs to be more culturally sensitive and aware that we are all not the same and therefore shouldn’t be treated as such. Especially when they have special police units that cater to the Gay http://www.gllu.org/ and Asian, Pacific Islander Communities http://apia.dc.gov/apia/cwp/view,A,3,Q,525689.asp

The Prophet SALLALLAHOU ALAYHI WASALLAM advised us to change any situation with our hands, then with our voice, and then at least abhor it in our hearts. With this being said let’s begin to make a change in the system so that the next sister, be it you or someone else will not have to go through this same ordeal. Let them see us and let them hear how we feel about this situation.

InShaAllah please attend this meeting and if you can’t forward this request to a brother and/or sister that can. Lastly, but not least make Du’a for us and if you have any questions and/or concerns please feel free to contact me.

Meeting Details:

PSA 607 Monthly meeting

When: May 14th, 2008 @ 7:00pm

Where: Sixth District Substation
2701 Pennsylvania Ave., SE
Washington, DC 20019
Phone: (202) 698-2088

Our Concerns: See the below email

Thank you for taking the time out to read and respond to this email again contact me if you need to and please send a reply back if you plan on attending…

Jazakallah Khairun,

Mark Abdul Wali ibn-Timberlake

(202) 680-9071 mobile

The below scenario is from my (Mark Abdul Wali ibn-Timberlake) perspective on the incident that happen on Friday, May 02, 2008 at around 12:45am. Between my wife (Octavia Washington) and numerous Washington, D.C. Metropolitan Police Officers part of the 6th District in Ward 7.

At around the time stated above my wife was pulled over by a MPD officer in front of our place of residence. Upon seeing the flashing lights I went to my window and notice it was her being confronted by the police. I admittedly went outside to see why she was being stop. The officer after a period of hesitation stated that she was being pulled over for the tinted glass on the front windows on the van. I told the officer that the car passed inspection with the windows like that; he said that that was false. My wife explained the same and he seemed to be agitated and ask for her licenses, registration, and vehicle insurance. After some time of locating these items the officer emerged from his vehicle with the light meter to test the tent he asked did we know the laws regarding tent in DC I explained to him I did. He test the windows and said that the tent was illegal he gave me the citation for the windows and said that we need to take the car through inspections in 8 days or be fined $1,000.00. After a brief conversation about that a second female officer was walking towards my wife in the car. The officer citing us asked did we know her license was suspended we both said no and explained to him that we never received anything in the mail.

At this point he began to ask my wife if she had any drugs, shoe strings, and anything that could possible hurt them in her position she stated no. upon hearing this and understanding what was about to happen I ask the officer if anything other then her being locked up could happen because our baby in the house is exclusively breast fed. He said no, I even ask if I could go in her place he again seem agitated and even annoyed at this point and ask me was I driving, I said no however our child needed to be fed. My wife asked could she feed him before she left he again replied no.

As the lady officer frisked my wife they began to motion for her head scarf (Hijab) and my wife explained to them that she wasn’t taking it off in front of him, the male officer seemed to be more angered and the female officer permitted her to keep her Hijab on (Hijab Defined: Often used to describe the head scarf or modest dress worn by women, who are required to cover everything except face and hands in the sight of anyone other than the immediate family.)

From here my wife told me about her trip to the 6th District she said that the officer was driving at high rates of speed running stop signs all without his emergency lights on. Due to the recent accidents involving emergency responders without their sirens on my wife was scared.

She said that they arrived to 6th District and the arresting officer dropped her off and left. During this time my son is now home crying because he was hungry I didn’t want to awake our other two children because our oldest daughter had school the next morning. I called my wife’s mother and asked her to come over to watch the children so that I could go to 6D to see when my wife could be released.

When I arrived to 6D a Male Officer was at the front desk and I explained to him what just happened and the fact that our baby was crying due to hunger. He said it wasn’t nothing that could be done she was the last to come in therefore she would be the last to be processed. By this he said she probably wouldn’t be released until late morning. I then ask since this is the case can my son come in here to breast feed he stated no because they had no space for that. I then asked can she go in the community room to feed him then he again replied no because they were understaffed and they would need two officers in the room with her. I then asked can I bring her breast pump to her, he said no. Now I’m kind of frustrated and I went on to say young women who have babies in prison don’t immediately have their baby taken they give that child time to wean off of its mother. He then said he knows but this isn’t prison he then said that he would go talk with his Sergeant. After awhile he returned and gave me the following option he said, she can be moved to the top of the processing list if I could pay a $500.00 bond tonight he asked how long it would take me to come up with that type of money. I told him that I had that on me now he said okay and went to the back again.

While he was in the back I could see that he was processing a few people I motioned for another officer to come to the front desk to assist me a female officer came to the desk and I explained to her what was going on and I also told her about all the work that I do in the community along with MPD and other organizations. At this point I could see in the back and I noticed my wife, I was hurt at the fact that she had no hijab on I ask why doesn’t she have her head scarf on? The female officer notice my anger and my wife screamed, “They took it from me”. The female officer asked her fellow colleagues why did they take her scarf? They said after a brief moment that it was a suicide concern when I heard this I said that she’s not going to commit suicide. They said that it’s for her safety as well as the other prisoners, the female officer told me that it was too long for her to keep I then ask what was the proper length and could they provide her with the proper head covering? The female officer couldn’t answer the question about the length and also said that they didn’t have anything she could cover with she then asked me if I had something I told her all that I had was the shirt on my back.

At this point I noticed another female officer pick up a phone and then she yelled out that Mrs. Washington (My wife) didn’t need the $500.00 and that she could be processed out. At this point instead of them giving her the head scarf while she was still in the back they brought her out front with her hair and her cleavage showing. Then at this point they returned her property. My wife was clearly hurt by this whole ordeal and she broke down crying once she got in the car with me.

All that we ask is that if anything can come out of this by the Grace of Allah it will be blessing even more so that the next sister faced in a similar predicament will not have to be degraded, disrespected and even traumatized by those who say that they are here to protect and serve. And given the chance to protect a mother and child they took the mother left the child hungry and exposed her (the mother) to treatment outside of her religious principles. I ask if she were a Catholic Nun would she still be treated the same? Not only that she said they questioned her asking was she born here and how long has she been in the county? My wife is American her family as well they came over on the same slave ships as many of our fore parents. Lastly, no one not the arresting officer or the officer’s at the district could tell us why her license was suspended.

Please call my wife to get her side of this story and also make Du’a for us and if you have any other questions and/or concerns feel free to contact us. Jazakallahu Khayran…

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13 thoughts on “A Muslim Sister’s Encounter with the DC Police and a Call for Support

  1. Unfortunately, situations in Philly lead to things like this. I blame the SO-CALLED muslims at the bank robbery and a lack of training for the police. The DC police may have violated your wife’s civil rights. Seek out an attorney not just for monetary gain but injunctive relief ( a change in policy). This may be a class action lawsuit believe me she is not the only one.

  2. I disagree with ‘A friend’ in regards to the bank robbery thing.

    At this point cops know Muslims and especially Muslim women. There has to be some sensitivity and respect used in these circumstances. Each case has to be treated in a nuanced fashion. This was a very simple issue of tinted windows. Not some robbery or terrorist plot. As such the sister should have been treated with basic good care.

    It is situations like these and others that makes the relationship between police and civilians become estranged and adversarial. The family should work with care. There should also be more effort on the part of the Musilim communities around the US to began to have “Sensitivity Training” or “Diversity Workshops” with local law enforcement, health care, education, and other institutions to create an awareness of how to work with Muslims.

    We ain’t going nowhere Insha Allah!!!

  3. I meant to say the family should work with CAIR Insha Allah.

    Also, is there a fax number or e-mail address where people can send their concerns, complaints and inquiries?

  4. AS

    We live in a time where technicalities of the law and the freedom to interpret the strictures of the law are in the hands of law enforcement who can use those means to achieve at times a foul end. There are a few lessons we should learn from this and that is knowing the law is a must and having connections is a must and having lawyers is a must. How to deal with the law and its agents is wajib for our best interests (maslaha).

    Another issue is that Muslims can not afford to be apolitical despite the fatwaas coming from the East regarding the haramness of engaging the political system. We are in a crisis, serious crisis that needs address. When technicalities of the law are utilized in this way to build a case that can easily be dealt with by way of fines and tickets we have a problem.

    Let us be honest if were Sunni with the discipline of El Hajj Malik al Shabazz (r) the sister would have been out within an hour or so or the block would have gotten shut down and it would have all happened within the parameters of the law! Wake up brothers we need to get it together and do so fast.

    Engage or die!

    Asalaamu Alaikum

  5. Asalaamu alaikum,

    Brother Umar, please tell this brother and his wife to contact their local CAIR office AND their local chapter of the ACLU. These things have been happening over and over all across this country. I myself had a similar situation where my scarf was taken, and the female officer who searched me at the jail did so with several male officers surrounding us and intentionally flipped my shirt up over my head to reveal my entire torso while the male officers laughed. Besides that I was called out of my name repeatedly by the female at the front desk and by the officer who searched me.

    I contacted CAIR but they were only able to obtain a verbal apology for me – and that wasn’t much because it was stated as “we’re sorry you didn’t like the way our law works” and a complete denial that anything wrong had even occurred. The ACLU offered to assist CAIR with my case and CAIR turned them down. Hearing that the same thing keeps happening to sisters makes me wish that I had allowed the ACLU to get involved and make a bigger issue of things. Not for my own sake, which is why I wanted things kept quiet, but for the sake of sisters who are being hurt still several years later.

    CAIR offered free “diversity” training to our local police dept and to our county jail staff. Both offers were refused. And frankly, diversity training only means anything when people truly want to understand and change, and that isn’t going to happen in law enforcement.

    I didn’t want to be a big public case. I was so embarrassed for being arrested at all and what it was for (which is a whole other story of injustice, frankly). I was a well-known community activist and couldn’t deal with how a case on my behalf would affect the agency I worked for, or my parents knowing what had happened. I really regret that now. Someone has to be the big public case that draws attention to serious injustices committed and allowed to continue across this country. It needs to change, and unfortunately in this country the only way to change it is by making a big public spectacle of it. SubhanAllah…

  6. AS

    Let us be honest CAIR can’t handle they are loaded. Maybe MAS Freedom Foundation’s Mehdi Bray can work on this or maybe we need an Al Sharpton Or Jesse Jackson but where are the Muslims equivalents? Or maybe we need to make a big fuss about it till our voices are heard!

  7. So I guess that if you are a muslim you should be treated differntly than the kafir…. From where I’m sitting it sure looks as if they’re trying to shakedown the DC police for some bucks.

  8. To: carolinemalay

    Yes, Muslim women should be treated with respect for their religious rights and freedoms! I thought it was a constitutional right and one of the things that us Americans like to flaunt about our democracy?

  9. Wow that brought me to tears.
    I lost hope in CAIR a long time ago when they came to the masjid rattling their cans. To me they only ever seemed to advocate for immigrant muslims of the arab/indopak lineage than anyone else.
    After 9/11 they seemed to me apologists more than anything else and I believe the ACLU do a better job at cases such as this where civil rights have been violated(or would seem to be the case). Sometimes you have to pick your batles though and driving without a license is an arrestable offence.
    The police arent obligated to do anything to help with a nursing mother and definetly the brother offering to be arrested in her stead wouldnt make any sense at all.
    Insha Allah the baby didnt suffer from the adverse effects of not being fed at that time and insha Allah the brother will be able to get this addressed.
    As muslims we need to be more aware of our situations….check our own backgrounds so we know if there are any warrants outstanding.
    Allahu ALim but I always think that forewarned is forearmed.
    Wsa

  10. Muslim women are not respected by the public because they are held in low esteme by Islamis men. In real islamic countries they are to be baby factories and not human beings. They cannot drive, have a voice of their own in public, go outside and feel the wind in their hair or the sun. They cannot swim in the ocean. God did not create them with a scarf on their heads. What is man to tell women what to put on their heads when they are overriding Gods work.
    Women in Islam should feel shame for they arn’t even allow a decent place in the mosque but have to come in thru a side door, like servants.

  11. @ Gail

    Muslim women speak for themselves. They veil their beauty out of consciousness of God. The injunction to veil is a command from God and not from men. Muslim women love God and wish to observe His commands.

    Why is it that when we speak about women and Islam that we point to Saudi Arabia? Do realize SA ranks low in terms of population. Have you looked to the women of Malaysia, Indonesia, Egypt or Sudan? Have you even bothered to ask the Muslim women that you may see out and about in the US?

    Our women don’t need the feminist movement Gail. They need to have their religious rights respected regardless of what ‘you’ define as freedom.

    @ Umar – Has there been updates on this case?

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