A woman wearing a hijab in a Washington, D.C., library was told by an officer that she could either remove the Muslim headscarf or leave, witnesses say.
The D.C. Public Library has suspended the library police officer as an investigation is conducted.
The woman was visiting the Shaw (Watha T. Daniel) Neighborhood Library Wednesday afternoon when she was approached by an officer, witness Jessica Raven said.
"He asked her repeatedly to remove her hijab. He then took out his handcuffs and told her if she weren't going to remove it, then she had to leave," Raven said.
Another library patron, Gregory Michael Blakely Jr., said he saw it too. He said he was shocked.
"What is this? This goes against everything this country stands for," he said.
Library management would like to speak with the woman but do not have her name.
Everyone is welcome at D.C. public libraries, the system's executive director, Richard Reyes-Gavilán, said.
"We're doing everything that we possibly can in order to address the situation and make people understand that the library is a place of inclusion," he said. "Certainly what happened yesterday is an isolated incident that we regret strongly."
The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) thanked library leaders for how quickly and appropriately they handled the objection to a woman wearing a hijab.
"For Muslim women, the hijab is a matter of modesty," CAIR spokesman Ibrahim Hooper said. "It's a tremendously offensive thing to ask a Muslim woman to remove her headscarf. It really is part of her religious being."
CAIR employee Santa Nadiir said she has been asked by airport security to remove her hijab.
"It does make you feel bad," she said. "You kind of feel like you're doing something wrong, when in actuality you're not doing anything wrong at all."
CAIR and the the library may potentially hold an educational event on religious diversity, Hooper said.
D.C. libraries -- which are patrolled by their own little-known police force -- do not have any policy about head coverings, religious or otherwise, a spokesman said.