A Georgia state legislator has introduced a bill aimed at banning Muslim women from wearing the burqa or other traditional Muslim veils, a response to constituents’ fears of terrorism.
Republican Jason Spencer (180th District, Woodbine) introduced a bill that would make it illegal for Muslim women to wear a veil in public. It would also prohibit them from wearing a veil for driver’s license photos and while driving.
Spencer is seeking to add the language banning the veil, called a hijab and niqab, as well as a burqa, to the state’s anti-Ku Klux Klan laws meant to stop Klan members from wearing hoods and other masks to conceal their identify.
The Republican lawmaker insisted that his bill was crafted to put a crimp in the movements of possible terrorists.
“This bill is simply a response to constituents that do have concerns of the rise of Islamic terrorism, and we in the State of Georgia do not want our laws used against us,” he said, according to WSB TV in Atlanta.
But Spencer also said the law was needed as a matter of public safety. “Number one, you’re not a public safety risk by blocking and obstructing your vision while on the road, but also that you’re identifiable to law enforcement.”
The new language would read:
A person is guilty of a misdemeanor when he or she wears a mask, hood, or device by which any portion of the face is so hidden, concealed or covered as to conceal the identity of the wearer and is upon any public way or public property or upon the private property of another without the written permission of the owner or occupier of the property to do so.
The bill goes on to state, “For the purposes of this subsection, the phrase ‘upon any public way or property’ includes but is not limited to operating a motor vehicle upon any public street, road, or highway.”
The issue of wearing a Muslim veil or burqa has been contentious in several states. Several years ago, a Muslim woman took the Florida Department of Motor Vehicles to court to force it to allow her to wear a burqa for her license photo. A judge denied her request.
In another case, the Illinois Secretary of State’s office issued a ruling that was initially interpreted as allowing women to wear full face coverings in license photos. The issue instantly became so contentious that the state quickly clarified that faces must be visible in license photos.
Fifteen states allow for a photo-free driver’s license for religious reasons.
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