Bill targeting Islamic veils is withdrawn by Georgia lawmaker after protests from the Muslim community.
Protests erupted against a Republican lawmaker’s proposal to make amendments to a law that was created in 1951 to ban Ku Klux Klan (KKK) terrorists from wearing masks. The members of KKK would wear masks to commit their crimes anonymously. This law was crucial in checking crimes that the terrorist group committed.
Georgia State Rep. Jason Spencer sought to revise the law so that Muslim women would be banned from wearing religious attire such as the niqab, and possibly the hijab as well. Muslims quickly protested this obvious act of casting Muslims in a negative light by equating their religious clothing to the KKK.
Following the protests, the proposal was repealed.
Lawmaker Spencer insists that he never intended to target Muslim women or any group in particular. Rather, he was only trying to prevent anything that could be used to commit crimes. He also admitted that he understood perfectly well that the words in his proposal may have sounded like he was trying to bring anti-Islamic laws into the state, although he assures that was never his intention.
Joining Muslims advocacy groups was the America Civil Liberties Union (ACLU). ACLU attorney Heather Weaver called this proposal a “naked and despicable,” attempt to make use of the current wave of anti-Muslim sentiments brewing in America to target and harass Muslim women. Although Spencer insists that his proposal was not intended to target any religious groups, protestors such as executive director of the Georgia chapter of the Council of American-Islamic Relations, Edward Ahmed Mitchell, insist that the proposal was definitely aimed at people of faith, especially Muslim women. This observation has been strengthened by the fact that one of the changes would be that the law, which was previously worded as “when he wears a mask,” would be reworded as “he or she.” Naturally, a “veiled she” would obviously mean a Muslim woman.
The 65-year-old law never applied to veiled Muslim women until now because as per court interpretations, niqabs could not be considered for prosecution because Muslim women did not wear the veil with an intention to intimidate people or to commit crimes like the KKK did. The law has always been interpreted in the frame of its intention.
The statement he issued saying that he had decided to scrap the amendment plans was received by Muslim groups with relief. At a time when being a Muslim is more difficult than ever before, this law could have been disastrous for the community.