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Wed 6 Jul 2011 12:05 PM

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Australian police allowed to demand women remove burqas

New regulations will enable police to ask women to remove veils regardless of the alleged crime

Australian police allowed to demand women remove burqas

Police in Australia’s New South Wales have been given more powers to order Muslim women to remove their burqas and other face coverings if they are suspected of committing a crime.

The law, which was approved on Monday, was in response to a case in which a Muslim woman had her six-month prison sentence overturned due to doubts over her identity, reported The Guardian newspaper.

“I don't care whether a person is wearing a motorcycle helmet, a burqa, niqab, face veil or anything else, the police should be allowed to require those people to make their identification clear,” said Barry O'Farrell, New South Wales’ state premier.

“I have every respect for various religions and beliefs but when it comes to enforcing the law the police should be given adequate powers to make a clear identification,” he added.

Under the new legislation women can be asked to remove their veils regardless of the severity of the alleged offence. Anyone who refuses to comply could now be fined AUD$5,500 ($5,887) or jailed for a year. Western Australia is also expected to pass similar legislation, said the newspaper.

The news follows a day after a diplomatic row broke out between Saudi Arabia and New Zealand after two Saudi students were ejected from local buses for wearing the full hijab.

The wife of Dr Sameer Aljabri was told by one bus driver to remove her veil, according to New Zealand press reports, while Gawheer Saud Al Thaubity was simply told to get off the bus.

New Zealand prime minister John Key said that Muslim women wearing veils should not face discrimination, and that spiritual and cultural beliefs should be respected, according to AFP.

The Saudi consulate general, Ahmed Al Johani, wrote to the New Zealand Foreign Affairs and Trade Ministry to complain about the incidents, in which both students were left crying on the street.

Arabian Business: why we're going behind a paywall

Basel A-Shaban 9 years ago

Niqab / Burqa can be removed to establish Muslim women I.D. for law enforcement. It's the Hijab that can't be removed in public regardless who is asking.

Peter Bench 9 years ago

Can someone please explain why cultural appreciation is one way? In other words if I visit a country then I am expected to adhere to local norms, why is that not true for all visitors to other countries? If I am a citizen allowed to behave in a certain way then nonetheless I should respect the need to support law enforcement.

Abu Zahra 9 years ago

People who make an issue about Niqab/Burqa are yet to understand the logic behind it. Islam requires women to be modest so as not to attract unnecessary attention.

sonnydubai 9 years ago

Fair enough from Australia, an extremely tolerant country which welcomes people from all over the world. However visitors have to abide by their rules - as Australians do when they visit Gulf States. Don't understand why this is even news.

American in Kuwait 9 years ago

Sorry but nowhere in the Quaran does it say to wear a Burqa or Niqab.

Jake 9 years ago

No problem.

You think a women in Berlin, Paris, London or New York dressed in a black cloth from head to toe, does not attract all the attention of the people surrounding her?

You can dress very modest and to Islamic standards without Abaya, Burka or Niqab. I've seen it by many Turkish, Palestinian and Egyptian Ladies.

And of course, the police must be allowed to identify a person. Yet, there is no need to remove the headscarf. That would be disrespectful and unnecessary.

harmony.anpeace 9 years ago

Hear hear!!!!

Joe 9 years ago

Many women in Australia and elsewhere of the Islamic faith wear heavy make up--body hugging jeans and tops AND a scarf on their heads...

kingkaiser 9 years ago

an if you're wearing hot pants.

I agree though, that if its purely for ID reasons, they should be allowed to see the woman's face, although for a brief period of time, as opposed to forcing them to remove it completely. Respecting the rights of others is an important tenet of the liberal societies, and its important not to let islamophobia compromise that.