Convicted Minn. Muslim woman protests ban on headscarf

Amina Farah Ali
Amina Farah Ali of Rochester, seen outside the federal courthouse in downtown St. Paul, on Monday, August 9, 2010.
MPR Photo/Laura Yuen

A Rochester woman convicted last week on terror charges is refusing to come out of her jail cell to eat because she is not allowed to wear a traditional Muslim head scarf while in custody.

The attorney for Amina Ali says he may file a lawsuit if the Sherburne County Sheriff continues to prevent her from covering her head. Attorney Dan Scott said Ali believes Islam requires her to wear the hijab in the presence of men, including workers at the mess hall.

"The sheriff's office has come to the conclusion that they don't have to accommodate that. And I cannot understand why," Scott said.

Scott said the law requires detention facilities that receive federal money to accommodate people's religious practices.

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Sherburne County officials tell the St. Paul Pioneer Press that inmates are not allowed to wear anything on their heads.

Sheriff Joel Brott said Ali is not going without food, but he didn't know if she was eating in a dayroom or in her cell.

The Minnesota chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations is urging the sheriff's office to grant Ali religious accommodation.

Ali was found guilty of sending money to the terrorist group al-Shabab in Somalia and is awaiting sentencing. Another defendant in the case, Hawo Hassan, was convicted on a conspiracy charge and lying to the FBI. Hassan was sent to a halfway house.

(The Associated Press contributed to this report.)