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Okla. House bans hejab in license photos: Minnesota legislature considers similar bill.

Oklahoma's House of Representatives overwhelmingly approved a bill Monday prohibiting Oklahomans from wearing any headcovering-even eyeglasses--in their driver's license photos.

The Oklahoma bill may be the tip of the iceberg of anti-hejab legislation. A Minnesota legislator has just introduced legislation to bar headcoverings in that state in driver's license photos. There is a movement in banks to also ban headgear. (See accompanying article at lower right.)

The Oklahoma bill was clearly a result of a recent incident involving a woman wearing hejab who was first barred and then allowed to be photographed wearing her headscarf. But the bill has also alarmed Sikhs, who would be forbidden to wear their turbans when getting a license, and Orthodox Jews, who would have to remove their yarmulkes.


The Tulsa World reported that Committee Chairman Rex Duncan, a Republican, took an unrelated bill and persuaded his committee to include a ban on eyeglasses, scarves, bandanas and any other foreign object that would obscure any part of the head or shoulders in driver's license pictures; the bill made no exception for religiously mandated head coverings.

After committee action, the bill went to the House floor and won passage by an overwhelming 88-8 vote. The bill now goes to the state Senate where impacted groups are trying to lobby senators to kill the bill.

The Tulsa World said the legislation was introduced in response to news that a Muslim woman was allowed to wear hejab in her driver's license photograph.

The call to ban headgear may face strong objections in motor vehicle departments around the country. The general policy is to require people to be photographed as they normally look. Thus, many states require a person who wears eyeglasses routinely to wear eyeglasses in the license photo, even though many Americans routinely remove their glasses whenever they see a camera.

A Jew who always wears a yarmulke and a Muslim who always wears a headscarf might not be readily recognizable to a police officer if their driver's license photo showed them without their normal head covering.

The day after the bill's passage in Oklahoma's House, the Sikh American Legal Defense and Education Fund (SALDEF) announced it was urging members of the Oklahoma State Senate to ensure a religious exemption is included in the proposed legislation.

Last Wednesday, legislation that would ask voters to make English the official language of Oklahoma was approved by a House committee, suggesting a trend to nationalistic legislation. Rep. Randy Terrill, the Republican author, said the legislation would save the state from having to provide taxpayer-funded services in any language other than English.

Following the Oklahoma headgear legislation, a Minnesota Republican legislator has introduced a similar bill banning headgear in driver's license photos. Rep. Steve Gottwalt said it is a matter of safety to help law enforcement identify people easier.

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Title Annotation:Islam: Muslims and the world
Publication:Iran Times International (Washington, DC)
Date:Mar 6, 2009
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