Claire McCusker


On October 11, 2006, forty-year-old Ginnah Muhammad brought suit against Enterprise Rent-A-Car seeking relief for $2,750 in assessed damages to a rental car, damages she claimed were caused by thieves. Rather than discussing her claims, however, the court focused on her sartorial choices: Muhammad arrived in court wearing the niqab-a modesty veil, worn by some devout Muslim women, covering the head and face with the exception of the eyes. Presiding Judge Paul Paruk gave her the choice of removing the niqab, or having her case dismissed. Paruk's reasoning appeared to be pragmatic: "I can't see your face and I can't tell whether you're telling me the truth and I can't see certain things about your demeanor and temperament that I need to see in a court of law." Muhammad parried, requesting that her case be heard in front of a female judge before whom she would feel comfortable removing her veil. When Paruk rejected this option as impossible, Muhammad chose to have her case dismissed rather than remove her veil, stating, "I wish to respect my religion and so I will not take off my clothes."

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