After Protests, Alabama Scraps Driving License Hijab Ban
IslamOnline.net, Feb. 21
After its decision to ban women from wearing hijab for driving license photos triggered a backlash among American Muslims, the state of Alabama backtracked on the measure Friday, February 20.
Muslim women had appealed to Alabama state officials to reconsider the ban in January while the Washington-based Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) issued an alert against the measure.
Many concerned Muslims from all over the country contacted the Alabama Department of Public Safety (DPS) to scrap the decision.
According to the new policy, the photograph of each applicant must be a ‘full face’ photo, and that head coverings and headgear are only acceptable due to religious beliefs or medical conditions.
Although variations in hairstyles and head covering make it difficult to rigorously define the term ‘face’ in general, the policy stipulates that the head of the applicant shall be shown from the top of the forehead to the bottom of the chin and from hairline side-to-side.
Hijab is a religious obligation under the Islamic law, not a symbol as many believed the gear to be.
“We thank (Alabama) Governor Bob Riley for recognizing the need to accommodate the religious beliefs and practices of his constituents,” CAIR Communication Director Ibrahim Hooper said in a press release.
“We also thank all those individuals and groups, such as the Alabama office of the ACLU and Muslim leaders in Birmingham and Montgomery, who contacted or met with state officials to support religious freedom,” he added.
Hooper said Alabama is now in conformity with the majority of other states that already allow religious and medical exemptions to prohibitions against head coverings in driving license photographs.
A recent survey by CAIR’s Civil Rights Department indicated that most other states,-including Florida, Mississippi and Tennessee-allow a religious exemption to prohibitions against head coverings in driver’s license photographs.
The driving license hijab ban has drawn an outcry across Alabama.
Boyd Campbell, a Montgomery attorney who specializes in immigration law, said banning hijab makes no sense when Alabama allows men to wear hair pieces and women to wear wigs in their driver’s license photos.
“What’s the difference?” Campbell asked.
The press also reacted with surprise to the state officials’ demand, saying it is needless and ridiculous to ask Muslim women to remove hijab for photographing.
“What about the thousands of Alabama women who routinely wear wigs or men who wear hairpieces? Are DPS employees or county employees who take pictures routinely inquiring if anyone is wearing a hairpiece and asking for them to be removed? We doubt it,” wrote the Montgomery Advertiser.
“Does DPS really want to turn those people assigned to take driver’s license photos into the hairpiece police?” the paper asked.
CAIR, America’s largest Islamic civil liberties group with 25 regional offices and chapters nationwide and in Canada, had earlier mobilized similar actions against making violations or offensive remarks about Islam.
West Jefferson High School in Harvey, La., removed a social studies teacher a few weeks ago after he pulled off the hijab of a 17-year-old student and made offensive remarks about her faith.