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Georgian Lawmaker Abandons Bill that Would Ban the Burqa
12/04/2016 Politics Steven K
keywords: Politics Religion

Georgian Lawmaker Abandons Bill that Would Ban the Burqa

After a public outcry, Georgian Republican lawmaker State Rep. Jason Spencer has stopped pushing for a bill that would have banned Muslim women from covering their faces.

The House Bill 3, which Spencer prefiled on November 14, would have added language to an anti-masking law originally targeting men in the Ku Klux Klan, and included women to the law. He abandoned the law two days later after the public outcry.

The exact language added would have “banned men and women from wearing clothing that conceals their faces when posing for their drivers’ license photos or while driving on state roadways.”

While it doesn’t explicitly target Muslim women, the additions could have prevented Muslim women from religious headwear such as the burqa, niqabs, or other veils in public, alarming Muslim civil rights advocates.

Members of the  Council on American-Islamic Relations, the nation’s largest Muslim civil rights group, said that the bill was designed to discriminate against Muslims living in Georgia, according to a report in the Washington Post.  

Spencer, following the public blowback, abandoned the bill and said that the bill had “no intention of targeting a specific group.”

“After further consideration, I have decided to not pursue HB 3 in the upcoming 2017 legislative session due to the visceral reaction it has created,” Spencer said in a statement.

“While this bill does not contain language that specifically targets any group, I am mindful of the perception that it has created. My objective was to address radical elements that could pose a threat to public safety,” he continued.  

The original law only 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.”

This law excludes people with a traditional holiday mask, as a result of employment or sporting occupation, as part of a theatrical production, and a gas mask. It does not have any language excluding the use of religious veils.

Despite the Republican lawmaker’s denial that it targets a specific group, an interview with him for WSB indicates otherwise.

In the interview, Spencer said that the bill was “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.”

Similar laws have been passed in European countries such as Belgium and France. In France laws were implemented banning women from covering their faces, citing security concerns and inclusiveness. Those laws were met with controversy around the world.

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