New Australian law to make Muslims lift veils

published on July 10, 2011

CANBERRA: Muslim women would have to remove veils and show their faces to police on request or risk a prison sentence under proposed new laws in Australia’s most populous state that have drawn criticism as culturally insensitive.

A vigorous debate that the proposal has triggered reflects the cultural clashes being ignited by the growing influx of Muslim immigrants and the unease that visible symbols of Islam are causing in predominantly white Christian Australia since 1973 when the government relaxed its immigration policy.

Under the law proposed by the government of New South Wales, a woman who defies police by refusing to remove her face veil could be sentenced to a year in prison and fined 5,500 Australian dollars ($5,900).

The laws were motivated by the bungled prosecution of Carnita Matthews, a 47-year-old Muslim mother of seven who was booked by a highway patrolman for a minor traffic infringement in Sydney in June last year.

An official complaint was made in Matthews’ name against Senior Constable Paul Fogarty, the policeman who gave her the ticket. The complaint accused Fogarty of racism and of attempting to tear off her veil during their roadside encounter.

Unbeknown to Matthews, the encounter was recorded by a camera inside Fogarty’s squad car. The video footage showed her aggressively berating a restrained Fogarty and did not support her claim that he tried to grab her veil before she reluctantly and angrily lifted it to show her face.

Matthews was sentenced in November to six months in jail for making a deliberately false statement to police.

But that conviction and sentence were quashed on appeal last month without her serving any time in jail because a judge was not convinced that it was Matthews who signed the false statutory declaration. The woman who signed the document had worn a burqa and a justice of the peace who witnessed the signing had not looked beneath the veil to confirm her identity.

Muslims are among the fastest growing minorities in Australia and mostly live in the two largest cities, Sydney and Melbourne. There are many examples to suggest they are not entirely welcome.

Muslim and non-Muslim youths rioted for days at Sydney’s Cronulla beach in 2005, drawing international attention to surging ethnic tensions. Proposals to build Islamic schools are resisted by local protest groups. The convictions of a Sydney gang of Lebanese Muslims who raped several non-Muslim women were likened by a judge to war atrocities and condemned in the media.

In 2006, then-Prime Minister John Howard published a book in which he said Muslims were Australia’s first wave of immigrants to fail to assimilate with the mainstream.

Government leaders have also condemned some Muslim clerics who said husbands are entitled to smack disobedient wives, force them to have sex and for suggesting that women who don’t hide their faces behind veils invite rape.

Read Full Report by Rod McGuirk here
http://expressbuzz.com/world/new-australian-law-to-make-muslims-lift-veils/292760.html

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