Date: Fri, 01 Feb 2002 08:42:13 -0700 (MST)
From: snail 
Subject: [azsecularhumanists] muslim refuses to have a foto drivers license

this article from the american atheist newsletter says a muslim in flordia is suing flordia saying they cant take her picture and put it on her drivers license.

it might be a good case for libertarians who argue that you dont need a stinking drivers license to drive a car.

A M E R I C A N A T H E I S T S #1000 ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ 1/31/02



A dispute over whether women of the Muslim fith should be compelled to lift their veils for drivers license photos is pitting religius superstition against Florida's recently-enacted Religious Freedom Restoration Act.

Sultaaa Freeman, a former Christian evangelical minister who converted to Islam, filed suit in Orange County, Florida this month when state officials demanded that she remove her "niqab," or religious head gear which provides only a narrow opening to see through, while sitting for her license photo. Motor vehicles officials in Illinois and Florida had allowed her to wear the garment in previous photos, but have raised te issue of security in the wake of the September 11 terrorist attacks.

Her suit could be a test of Florida's Religious Freedom Restoration Act, which requires that government use a "compelling interest" test when dealing with religious practices, and burden believers or groups with "the least restrictive means."

American Atheists and a coalition of other legal and public policy organizations have opposed RFRA and imilar legislation. Two years ago, federal lawmakers passed a scaled-down version of the measure known as the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Person's Act. Legislatures in nearly a dozen state, though, have passed wider versions of the measure, often under the label of RFRA or "Religious Freedom Act."

Freeman is represented by the American Civil Liberties Union, which supported the original federal RFRA. The organization has split over whether these laws protect legitimate freedoms, or constitute a violation of state-church separation.

Freeman told the Miami Herald, "I don't show my faceto strangers or unrelated males."

According to the Florida chapter of the Washington, DC-based Council on American-Islamic Relations, three other Muslim women have also been refused drivers licenses because they insist on wearing the headdresses.

For further information: (Archive of articles on the Religious Freedom Restoration Act) ("Florida Senate passes RFRA," 5-8-98)




After years of being terrorized by the Islamic Taliban government, women in Afghanistan are slowly -- and cautiously -- coming out from under the cumbersome burqas or head-to-toe garments they were compelled to wear in public. But while media has focused on images of men shaving their beards and listening to western music -- banned by the ruthless clerics -- there are disturbing reports of violence against women being attacked for not wearing their veils. One rumor, according to the Miami Herald newspaper, involves men who throw acid in the face of any women in public not wearing appropriate Islamic dress.

Earlier this month, the new Prime Minister signed a "Declaration of the Essential Rights of Afghan Women" which explicitly guarantees equality of the sexes along with "freedom o movement, freedom of speech and political participation and the right to wear or not wear the burqa or scarf." There are examples of women boldly refusing to don the religious garments, such as when a group of about 60 Afghan women met in Kabul's famous Intercontinental Hotel to discuss the future role and rights of females within the new society. "Amazingly, there was not a burqa in sight," wrote Herald reporter Meg Laughlin.

What about the reports of acid throwing, though? The story is told over and over again, and women in the medical professions were reportedly the first to hear of it. That may be explained by the fact that during the Taliban regime, Afghanistan's health infrastructure was hard hit when the clerical regime banned women from schools, businesses and hospitals where they accounted for much of the workforce. The story often tells of a women walking through a Kabul neighborhood sans burqa, with only a scarf on her head. She is accosted by a man who demands that she return home and wea the Muslim garment. She ignores the bully, and keeps walking. The following day, walking down the same treet without the demanded burqa, the man suddenly approaches and throws acid in her face.

"True or not, this story is unfortunate because it is scaring women and keeping them in the burqa," said Minister of Higher Education Sharief Fayez.

The rumor -- call it an post-Islamic urban legend -- seems difficult to authenticate. There are few hospitals in Afghanistan, and in Kabul none of the emergency and surgical centers admitted to treating a female victim of an acid attack. Indeed, in som health facilities, men and women are back to working side by side, with the females wearing "stylish clothes, jewelry and make-up." One lab tech declared, "We had talked about going outside without our burqas, but now we are afraid."

Why the popularity of so ghastly a story, though, especially with the Taliban virtually obliterated and international attention focused on the rights of Afghan women? Part of the answer may be that the story reflects the profound emotional turmoil and terror experienced by women under the clerical government. Women in strict Islamic homes may still wear the garment out of fear, but still yearn to return to the less cumbersome styles that were part of pre-Taliban existence. One diplomat told the Herald, "There is a great camaraderie among those of us who don't wear the burqa." And the director of the Maiwand Hospital said, "Young women from very strict families see hope everywhere and they can't patake of it, which is more painful than not see it at all."

For further information: ("Taliban abuses ignored for oil money, drug war," 7/19/98)



-- "When the people fear their government, there is tyranny; when the government fears the people, there is liberty " Thomas Jefferson

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