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Georgia's Proposed Ban on Islamic Covering

By: Olivia Dec 23, 2016
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You can say it is not discriminatory for Non-Muslims to act in accordance with their conscious if they simply don't feel safe with women walking around in niqabs and burkas, but keep in mind that those same women might find something unconscionable with your way of life too. It can go both ways. There is no need for us all to be alike. Nuns cover up, and are considered devoted, why are Muslim women who chose to cover considered oppressed? What we are dealing with here is the perception of liberty, and sadly, a kind of unnerving ease with this human rights abuse.

How can we claim to have built this country as a breakaway from a monarchy, with its principal cornerstone being religious freedom, and then tell a religious group that their modest dress code should be regulated by the government “because we can’t see your face”?

I hope you see how this veiling issue affects us all – Muslims and Non-Muslims. Our government should not be allowed to pick and choose which forms of religious freedoms to protect. We either all have the American liberty to practice our faith in peace or we don’t. Which is it Americans?

As we embark on the upcoming 2017 political climate, it is important that we fully understand that we are on ground zero in preparing for some of the toughest years of our lives as Muslim Americans. The burgeoning issues of Islamophobia, hate crimes and discrimination are a thing we will all have to become further educated in if we are to be effective in representing the Ummah in our local government, Tallahassee and Washington D.C.

For any country claiming to be democratic, it is alarming to see government legislating on our personal clothing choice. Yet with growing Islamophobic rhetoric, empowering anti-Muslim radicals who discriminate against Muslim women, Republican State Representative Jason Spencer proposed a bill that would make wearing a burqa or veil illegal while driving or when taking a driver’s license picture in the state of Georgia.

House Bill 3 would amend Article 2 of Chapter 11 of Title 16 of the Official Code of Georgia Annotated, relating to “offenses against public order, so as to change certain provisions relating to wearing a mask, hood, or device which conceals the identity of the wearer” and amend Chapter 1 of Title 50 to “provide that photographs on certain government issued licenses, permits, and identification cards shall not allow concealment of any portion of the face of an individual” (http://www.legis.ga.gov/Legislation/en-US/display/20172018/HB/3).

Jason Spencer, though he withdrew his proposal, was looking to amend the statue that was originally written to ban the Ku Klux Klan from wearing hoods and robes, and failed to recognize that the KKK’s covering was created for the sole purpose of concealing their identity while assembling against and attacking minorities. Their intention was in fact to mask themselves because of their involvement in criminal acts. In that reference, one cannot debate the safety concerns dealing with masked attackers, but in this instance the Islamic practice of veiling is neither intended for hate or for concealing one’s identity. Covering and veiling in Islam is a choice to practice modesty.

Let’s consider the facts:

  • A mask is a covering used as a disguise. Its purpose is to conceal one’s identity.
  • A hijab, as its literal Arabic translation implies, is a “cover.” It covers the hair and neck and is a symbol of modesty and privacy for the Muslim women who chose to wear it. It neither disguises a woman nor conceals their identity. The face is fully visible.
  • Their hybrids are the niqab and the burka: The niqab is a veil made of lightweight fabric and it leaves only the eyes uncovered. (It was first worn by Christian women in the Byzantine Empire and adopted by the Muslims.) While the more extremist burka is a long, loose garment covering the whole body from head to feet.

Based on the considerations extended to other uses of covering up or masking, the use of this religious covering resonates more with that which it should not be applied to:

This Code section shall not apply to: 21 (1) A person wearing a traditionalholiday  costume on the occasion of the holiday; 22 (2) A person lawfully engaged in trade and employment or in a sporting activity where 23 a mask is worn for the purpose of ensuring the physical safety of the wearer, or because 24 of the nature of the occupation, trade, or profession, or sporting activity; 25 (3) A person using a mask in a theatrical production including use in Mardi gras celebrations and masquerade balls.

Spencer is clearly not taking into consideration the traditional aspect of the Islamic veiling, though he extends it to “anyone wearing a traditional holiday costume.” On the same token, if someone engaged in trade and employment can wear their covering, how can we deny someone engaged in religious practice, such as in the moral and Islamic measures of covering up?

This has clearly become a human right’s issue at this point. If we allow the government to legislate over the freedom to dress ourselves in accordance with our religious practices, especially in a country which was founded on the very principles of religious freedom and democracy, then what is next?

This kind of anti-islamic sentiment is not limited to the Georgia border line. The Netherlands, Britain, Germany, France, Switzerland, Norway and Bulgaria have all either banned the burka or the burkini (the Islamic bathing suit). I have yet to understand how a burkini, which leaves the face exposed just like a hijab, is a threat to public safety. This only serves to prove my point, and that is that it has more to do with anti-islamic sentiment than with a concern for safety or oppression.

In less than 18 days, when the Georgia General Assembly convenes, on January 09, this proposal might still be discussed. If it is, and if it passes and is signed by the governor, the new law will take effect on July 01, 2017. What are you going to do? Sit at home and watch what happens, or stand up for our sisters in Georgia?

This is not about whether or not you are Muslim and would even wear a hijab, a niqab or a burka. It is about what we will pass on to our descendants: freedom or a false blanket version of it? Freedom is worth fighting for. Send your e-mail today or contact a Georgia House Representative and put in your two cents. It adds up – and these are not the days to shy away. Today it's Georgia. Tomorrow it's your hometown.

Contact Representative Jay Spencer at: jason.spencer@house.ga.gov

http://www.house.ga.gov/representatives/en-US/member.aspx?Member=789&Session=24

 Georgia House of Representatives:

http://www.senate.ga.gov/senators/en-US/SenateMembersList.aspx


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