US Muslim must unveil for driver's photo

A judge in Orlando, Florida has ruled that a Muslim woman must remove her veil to be photographed if she wants to be issued with a driver's licence.

    The veil has to be lifted for a
    driver's licence photo

    Judge Janet Thorpe found Friday that "the momentary raising of her veil for the purpose of the ID photo does not constitute a substantial burden on her right to exercise her religion."

      

    Thorpe pointed out that drivers' licences were used as identification documents which were needed to help protect the public from criminal activities and security threats.

     

    The court said the need of the state to quickly identify subjects of investigative traffic stops or criminal and intelligence investigations outweighed anyone’s need to pose for a driver’s licence photo with clothes that would cover all facial features except the eyes.

      

    "Therefore, the requirement that all potential drivers have their driver's licence photos taken unveiled, uncloaked, and unmasked does not unconstitutionally burden the free exercise of religion," said Thorpe.

     

    Freedom of religion

     

    Citing her religious beliefs, Sultaana Freeman, 35, had taken the state of Florida to court after she was denied a driver's licence because she refused to be photographed without her "niqab," a veil that leaves only her eyes uncovered.

     

    Freeman, a US citizen who converted to Islam in 1997, testified for three days last week.

      

    She had been issued a driver's licence in February 2001, for which she was photographed veiled, but shortly after the 11 September 2001 attacks she was told to have a new photograph taken without her veil.

      

    Freeman's attorney Howard Marks said the dispute would not have arisen had it not been for the September 11 attacks. He accused the state of Florida of ruling against religious freedoms, adding that he plans to appeal the ruling.

      

    Florida's Attorney General Charlie Christ said the case was clearly "a matter of national security. In a post September 11 society, we're going to enforce the law," he said.


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