Report: Long Island Judge Under Investigation After Asking Muslim Woman To Remove Face Covering; Islamic Center Calls Incident “Islamophobia”

A niqab is a veil that covers the face, worn by some Muslim women as a part of their Islamic faith. It typically covers the lower part of the face, leaving only the eyes exposed. The niqab is often worn along with other clothing, such as a full-length gown or cloak (abaya) and a headscarf (hijab).

MINEOLA, NY – Acting Supreme Court Justice Philippe Solages of Nassau County, is currently subject to an internal investigation over his handling of a case involving a Muslim defendant last month. Reportedly, Solages requested a Muslim woman, attending a plea hearing, to remove her niqab, a religious garment that covers most of her face, in order to confirm her identity. The inquiry into Solages’s conduct has led him to be temporarily removed from all of his criminal cases.

The defendant, a 37-year-old woman, communicated that removing her niqab contravenes her religious practices. Following a prolonged argument, her identity was eventually confirmed through alternative means. A representative from the New York State Office of Court Administration informed Newsday that an investigation into the conduct of the Supreme Court Justice was launched due to concerns raised through a letter received by Nassau County’s Administrative Judge, Vito M. DeStefano.

In a recent statement by Al Baker, the director of communications for the state Office of Court Administration, he asserted that while further details surrounding the case cannot be disclosed publicly, Judge DeStefano is going through the details carefully to ensure that every reasonable administrative measure is taken.

While Judge Solages has not commented on the incident, court records indicate that the woman involved pleaded guilty to the violation, the details of which remain sealed. As of November 2nd, the Office of Court Administration stated that matters related to the potential reassignment of the Justice’s cases are still under review.

The Legal Aid Society of Nassau County, who were responsible for the representation of the woman involved in the case, as well as Brendan Brosh, spokesperson for Nassau County District Attorney Anne Donnelly, have both declined to comment on the incident. However, it has elicited a succinct response from others in the community.

Dr. Isma Chaudhry, co-chair of the Islamic Center of Long Island in Westbury, voiced her strong disapproval, calling the incident a clear demonstration of “Islamophobia”. In her words, “There is no other word.”

Dr. Chaudhry emphasized that the case was not merely a concern for one community, but an issue of importance for anyone participating in a faith or heritage. She underscored the importance of the niqab for some Muslim women, elaborately describing it as an “expression of faith”, and criticized the judge for targeting the woman due to her religious affiliations.

Judge Solages, a New York Court of Claims judge acting as a Supreme Court Justice, has served as a criminal defense lawyer, an election lawyer, and also dedicated the early years of his career to his role as a prosecutor at the Suffolk County District Attorney’s Office.

This incident serves as a stark reminder of the critical balance between maintaining the integrity of court proceedings and respecting the religious freedoms individuals rightly hold. It represents an ongoing struggle for societies to attain unity through diversity, calling for a sensitive interpretation of laws that honors human dignity and cultural diversity while also ensuring the fair and equal application of the law.

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