Oz traffic cops lift Muslim veil
CASE CLOSED: The inadvertent ability of Muslim women to avert prosecution due to identity issues has been quashed by Australian authorities.
MELBOURNE, Australia - A Muslim woman who refused to remove her burqa for identification purposes after being stopped for a traffic offence has forced legislators to amend headwear laws.
Following a recent court case in which a Muslim woman was acquitted when a judge ruled she could not be positively identified because was wearing a burqa, police in the Australian state of New South Wales have been given new powers.
HEADWEAR OUT OF FASHION
"I don't care whether a person is wearing a motorcycle helmet, a burqa, face veil or anything else," state premier Barry O'Farrell said. "The police should be allowed to require those people to make their identification clear."
Whereas Australian police previously could only request women to remove face-covering headwear in the case of a serious crime investigation, the new powers conferred to officers in the field by state authorities allow then to ask for burqa removal even for a minor offence.
Those who refuse could be jailed for a year or be fined the equivalent of R40 000.
The deciding case occured in November 2010 when a woman was sentenced to six months jail for falsely accusing police of trying to remove her burqa forcibly when she was stopped for a traffic offence but her sentence was quashed in June 2011 when a magistrate said he could not be 100 percent sure it was the same woman who made the complaint because officers were not able to see the face of the accuser.
ORDERED OFF BUSES
The wearing of full-face niqab veils by some Muslim women has also become a contentious issue in parts of Europe; France has banned them in public.
New Zealand's prime minister, John Key, on Tuesday said Muslim women wearing veils should not face discrimination; two Saudis were reportedly ordered off busses due to their attire.
However the Islamic Council of New South Wales said it accepted O'Farrell's decision.
"If you're asked to do something by a police officer and it's legitimate, then you do it," council chairman Khaled Sukkarieh told ABC radio.