Australia will soon follow the lead of France and Belgium by banning Islamic veils. The new law proposed by the government of New South Wales states that a woman who does not remove her veil upon police request could be sentenced to a year in jail and fined 5,500 dollars (that would be 5,900 in American dollars.) It would also require motorists and criminal suspects to remove head coverings so the police can identify them. If passed, the bill will become the most restrictive to date. The bill will be voted on by state parliament next month.
The law was created in response to the botched persecution of Carnita Matthews, a Muslim woman who was booked for a minor traffic violation last year. A complaint in Matthews’ name was filed against Senior Constable Paul Fogarty, the officer who issued her the ticket. The complaint cited Fogarty as racist and accused him of tearing off her veil during the traffic stop. However, video footage from inside Fograty’s cop car show that Matthews was verbally abusive to the officer and didn’t support her claims of the officer ripping off the veil. Instead, the cameras showed that Matthews reluctantly and angrily tore off her veil. Matthews was sentenced to six months for making a false statement to the police.
However, the sentenced was overturned without Matthews serving time, because a judge was not convinced that Matthews was the person who filed the report. The woman who filed the complaint had been wearing a burqa and a justice of the peace who witnessed the signing did not ask the woman to conform her identity.
Opponents of the bill say it is culturally insensitive to Muslim women who wear the veils for religious and cultural purposes. Out of 23 million Australians, only 400,000 are Muslims. It is estimated that only 2,000 wear burqas and other face concealing head wear. It is estimated that an even smaller percentage drive.
What do you think? Is Australia moving in the right direction or are they being intolerant?