An anti-masking bill originally designed to ban KKK hoods was in the process of being amended in an attempt to criminalize the niqab, a Muslim woman’s full body covering, in an increasingly hostile post-election America. The original bill, passed in 1990, was meant to prevent anonymous acts of violence committed by KKK members donning white hoods against Black people.
Georgia State Representative Jason Spencer of the Republican Party wanted to change the legal language used in the first bill in order to include Muslim women who choose to wear the niqab. If amended, Muslim women would have been unable to wear the niqab in photos used for identification. You can view the bill along with the amendment here.
The bill was just withdrawn but the very idea that put it in place remains. So let’s review:
Essentially we have a man capitalizing on the irrational fear of non-Muslims that was exposed by the Trump campaign and subsequent hate crimes. To criminalize the Muslim woman by telling her she can no longer wear the niqab is offensive enough–as it implies you fear what it represents, when, in reality, it is a symbol of both modesty and a religion of peace.
But this is not the worst part. No, what adds to the offense is the fact that the bill in question concerned the KKK, a group that should be labeled a terrorist group but is somehow still able to hold public rallies and preach hate; the one that endorsed the now President-elect, the one that has a history of lynching African Americans and smiling as they parade around, victorious in the knowledge that the hood protects them.
You will not compare the niqab to the white hoods worn by men and women who are too cowardly to show their faces when committing unspeakable acts. The niqab is the very opposite of the hood; the hood is a mask hiding who one truly is so to avoid public scrutiny whereas the niqab is a symbol of courage in a world which wrongly associates it with oppression and evil. The woman who wears the niqab can stand proud in her self-expression. People in white hoods cannot.
The white hood is a symbol of shame; you lift it and see teachers, mothers, fathers, doctors, lawyers etc. hiding the very essence of who they truly are. I see a niqab and I see a woman proud of her religion—a woman who is unafraid to be herself in a world which too often tells her what she should be.
We will not allow you to put the niqab in the same sentence as the white hood.
One is worn with pride while the other brings with it a history of racism.
If you want to make a statement, criminalize the ones who don white hoods and scream white supremacy, do not demonize Muslim women who just want to live with the knowledge that their safety won’t be comprised due to what they choose to wear. Yes, the bill has been withdrawn, but it should not have been proposed in the first place. The niqab will remain and–while this is a victory, the sentiment behind the now-withdrawn bill will remain in the hearts and minds of many.