Whew, Georgia came ~this close~ to banning burqas and we're really glad they changed their mind
There is no question that the state of our nation is divided right now after the election and a new bill that was being considered by a Republican lawmaker in Georgia banning burqas even further confirmed that. State representative Jason Spencer pre-filed a bill that was apparently targeted towards men in the Ku Klux Klan, which would be a good thing. But the “anti masking” law would have also added language that specifically mentioned women and could have prevented Muslims from wearing religious garb covering their faces in public.
This alarmed a number of people who saw it as a targeted attack against the Muslim community in Georgia. Beyond potentially prohibiting women from wearing their religious garb in public, the proposed bill would have also banned both men and women from wearing any clothing that concealed their face while posing for driver’s license photos or driving on state roadways.
Although the bill did not specifically mention burqas or the Muslim faith, the community was understandably alarmed about legislation that could have had such an impact on the Muslims residing in Georgia once they read between the lines. When Spencer abandoned the bill just two days after pre-filing it, he explained his reasoning for the sudden change in proposed legislation. “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 formal statement.
The “radical elements” that Spencer was referring to also included public threats like KKK activity or even criminals masking themselves to commit crimes. But without making a provision in the law for burqas, the implications for the Muslim community (and especially Muslim women) would be way too serious. It was a close call for Georgia’s Muslim community and it’s likely that under the new administration, Muslim women and advocates for civil rights need to be super vigilant.