US state bill could make hijabs and niqabs illegal in public

A Republican representative is looking to expand a law that originally targeted the Ku Klux Klan as an effort to stop their anonymous acts of violence

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The Independent US

A Georgia lawmaker wants to penalise Muslim women from wearing hijabs, niqabs, and burqas in public, raising concerns of laws targeting religious freedom as hate crimes spike in the aftermath of Donald Trump’s election win. 

Republican state representative Jason Spencer introduced a bill to alter the language of an already existing anti-masking law to include any hood or veil while posing for their driver’s license photo, the Atlanta Journal Constitution reported. 

The original anti-masking law passed in 1951. It targeted Ku Klux Klan members as a way to prevent them from committing anonymous violence while wearing their Klan hoods. But Mr Spencer wants to expand the law, he claims, to women driving on public roads, making it a misdemeaner if they are wearing their traditional headwear. 

However, the language of House Bill 3 suggests the prohibition could apply to any public property. 

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“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,” the new line would read. 

The current law 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.

Area Muslim advocacy groups warn that they will sharply oppose the bill. 

“The bill is a bad solution to a nonexistent problem,” executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations in Georgia, Edward Ahmed Mitchell, told the Huffington Post. “[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.”

After Mr Trump's election, many Muslims in the US expressed "trememdous levels of fear", as some claim they were warned to no wear their hijabs. Many expressed their concerns on social media.

"My mom literally just texted me 'don't wear the Hijab please' and she's the most religious person in our family," one woman wrote.

Another woman stood defiantly: "I am proud to be Muslim. I am proud to wear a hijab. I may be scared for my safety, but I will not let myself fear [Trump]."