The city of Detroit announced a settlement this week with three Muslim men who filed a lawsuit over an Islamophobic incident recorded on police body cameras three years ago, reports the Middle East Eye.
As AsAmNews reported in 2021, officers were recorded making racist statements, declaring that “Muslim men are pedophiles,” among many other Islamophobic insults. The incident was triggered after one of the men, Khalil Muhammad, called police to report that a woman he had let stay in his house after her release from a mental facility had attacked him and two friends with a hammer.
The woman met Detroit Police Department officers Donald Owens and Nathaniel Mullen outside Muhammad’s house, where she told the officers that the men she was staying with were Muslim, giving rise to their Islamophobic comments.
The officers are quoted as saying that “Muslims lie a lot … they control them [women]… like, they feel like … you don’t have a say if you’re a woman.”
Their comments reflect an Islamophobic trope that singles out Islam and Muslim societies as uniquely oppressive of women. Speaking to CNN, spokeswoman of the Council on American-Islamic Relations Zainab Chaudry criticized the trope, because it treats misogyny present in culture as inherent to the religion—even though early Islam expanded the rights of women in 7th century Arabia and “Islam actually encourages women to keep their autonomy and agency.”
Those who use the trope don’t tend to apply that same standard to other religions, making it Islamophobic.
Though often framed in feminist terms, the trope is usually used in a patriarchial call for non-Muslim men to “protect” non-Muslim women from the influence of Islam, especially from Muslim immigrants.
Rather than responding to the assault report that Khalil Muhammad made, the officers handcuffed Muhammad, Clifford Williams, and Roberto Guzman in front of their residence, “in a manner that was intended to humiliate and embarrass them due to their Muslim faith,” according to the lawsuit.
The lawsuit holds that the arrest was done without probable cause, and was based on the defendants’ bigotry and prejudice towards Muslim Americans.
In September 2021, shortly after the lawsuit was announced, Detroit Police conducted an internal investigation into the issue, giving Owens a five-day suspension without pay and no other punishment for any officers.
Muslim Americans are more likely to be subjected to police brutality than the national average, according to a study by Rice University, and that is especially true for non-White Muslims—Black Muslims being the most badly affected.
The lawsuit originally sought at least $75,000 in damages, but the settlement amount has not been disclosed.
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