Georgia Rep Proposes Bill to Ban Hijabs in Public

Donald Trump's anti-Islam rhetoric is infecting lawmakers around the country. Georgia state Republican Rep.Jason Spencer proposed House Bill 3, on Tuesday, which according to a report in the Atlanta Journal Constitution: 

"bar women from wearing a burqa and veil when posing for the photo on their Georgia drivers’ license. The bill would also subject female Muslim garb to the state’s anti-masking statute – which originally was aimed at the Ku Klux Klan."

Spencer tried to gloss over the hateful effects of his bill, claiming that it would only apply to women who are driving on public roads, as if that wasn't majorly discriminatory in itself. But make no mistake, as the Journal-Constitution notes, "the wording suggests the restriction might also apply to any kind of public property." This bill, if passed, effectively bans women from wearing hijabs and niqabs in public. 

The law's current text reads:

"A person is guilty of a misdemeanor when he wears a mask, hood, or device by which any portion of the face is so hidden, concealed or covered as the 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."

Spencer wants to change the wording to include women, and add: “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.”

Local Muslim leaders are aware of the bill, and already prepared to fight it:

"The bill is a bad solution to a nonexistent problem,” Edward Ahmed Mitchell, executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations in Georgia, told The Huffington Post. “[These Muslim women] are not endangering themselves or anyone else. We have a new president, but not a new Constitution. The bill is unnecessary and unconstitutional, and we intend to oppose it if it goes forward."

 House Bill 3 is scarily similar to French legislation, which has banned veils in academic settings, including, as the Washington Post reminded us this summer, public schools (thanks to a 2004 law). Other French laws ban Muslim clothing on beaches.

It's also important to remember that worldwide, Muslim women bear the brunt of these laws, and of hate crimes after the 2016 election. This isn't just a Georgia problem or even an American problem. In response, Edward Ahmed Mitchell told the Huffington Post, "We intend to reach out with an open hand. We build bridges. If that fails, and our government leaders attempt to interfere with our rights, we will defend our community by any legal means necessary."


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