The traditional Islamic female head covering known as the hijab could soon be recognized by law as a “hands-free” device for using a mobile phone while driving, if a new bill in the Minnesota Legislature passes.
The hijab is worn to preserve modesty. Typically, it covers the hair and neck, but not the face.
House Bill 50 (HF 50) is officially titled: “Cell phone use prohibited by person operating a vehicle while vehicle is in motion or a part of traffic, traffic stop study required, report required, and money appropriated.”
An amendment to the bill singles out the hijab as a hands-free device, acknowledging that some female Muslim drivers may use their hijabs to hold their mobile phones while (mostly) keeping their hands on the steering wheel (emphasis added):
(d) “Voice-activated” or “hands-free mode” means an attachment, accessory, application,
wireless connection, or built-in feature of a wireless communications device or vehicle that
allows the person to use the device without the use of either hand except to activate or
deactivate a feature or function. The term includes the use of a scarf or hijab or other item
of clothing to hold a device in a hands-free manner.
The amendment was flagged by John Croman, a reporter for local NBC affiliate KARE 11.
MN Senate amends Hands Free cell phone bill to specifically allow holding a phone with your hijab, the head covering or scarf worn for religious reasons. pic.twitter.com/xDy1YUXuoL
— John Croman (@JohnCroman) March 25, 2019
On Republican, State Rep. Jeremy Munson (R-Lake Crystal), posted a Facebook video blasting the new amendment as “ridiculous.” In the video, he wears a cellphone attached to his face with a necktie.
Minnesota Public Radio reported that the amendment was introduced by State Sen. Bobby Joe Champion, DFL-Minneapolis, who said: “Any person who is using a scarf and they are operating hands free — because that’s what it says ‘hands-free mode’ — by using a scarf in order to hold a phone would not be a violation because both hands would be on the steering wheel.”
Champion also said the amendment would reduce racial profiling, because police would not be able to single out Muslim drivers merely for holding a cell phone with a hijab.
The district Champion represents, the 59th State Senate district, is within the 5th congressional district, represented in the U.S. House by Ilhan Omar (D), one of the first two Muslim women in Congress, and the first to wear a hijab.
The amended bill passed the State Senate Monday and will now be considered by the State House.
Joel B. Pollak is Senior Editor-at-Large at Breitbart News. He is a winner of the 2018 Robert Novak Journalism Alumni Fellowship. He is also the co-author of How Trump Won: The Inside Story of a Revolution, which is available from Regnery. Follow him on Twitter at @joelpollak.