A Georgia lawmaker is aiming to amend a state law originally designed to prohibit men from wearing Ku Klux Klan (KKK) hoods to also ban Muslim women from wearing hijabs and niqabs in public.
On Nov. 15, Republican state Rep. Jason Spencer of Georgia filed House Bill 3, which will be up for consideration in the 2017 session. The legislation would tweak the state’s anti-masking statute to include Muslim women who wears hijabs or niqabs, AJC reports.
The state statute was originally passed to forbid Georgia men from donning KKK hoods and operating anonymously. Spencer’s proposed bill would adjust the wording of the statute to include women.
The proposed bill would also place a ban on Muslim women from wearing a veil in their driver’s license photographs. Spencer has asserted that his legislation is designed to prohibit Muslim women from wearing veils while driving and endangering public safety. While that may be the Georgia lawmaker’s intention, his legislation could lead to Muslim women being barred from wearing veils or headscarves in any public places.
“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, our highway,” House Bill 3 reads. By not limiting the rule to operating inside of a motor vehicle, Spencer’s legislation could be applicable to Muslim women merely walking down a public street.
The hijab is a head scarf that conceals a woman’s hair. In the Muslim world, head scarves are often stylized and used as fashion accessories. Meanwhile, the niqab is a veil that conceals the face but with a slit for the eyes to allow vision, according to The New York Times.
Muslim women generally wear a hijab or niqab to signal their religious identity. Executive Director Edward Ahmed Mitchell of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) in Georgia has signaled that his organization is already prepared to advocate against Spencer’s bill, deeming it to be religious discrimination.
“The bill is a bad solution to a nonexistent problem,” Mitchell told The Huffington Post.
“[These Muslim women] are not endangering themselves or anyone else.”
Referencing the election of President-elect Donald Trump, Mitchell asserted that nothing has changed about the importance of civil rights in the United States.
“We have a new president, but not a new Constitution,” Mitchell continued. “The bill is unnecessary and unconstitutional, and we intend to oppose it if it goes forward.”
CAIR has found that Muslim women in Georgia have been experiencing harassment and bullying following the presidential election. In one incident, a Muslim teacher was allegedly handed a note by a student asking her to hang herself using her head scarf as a noose.
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