Alabama Muslims denied right to Islamic attire
A number of Muslim women in that state have reported to CAIR that they were prevented from obtaining or renewing licenses because they refused to take off their hijab.
In a letter to Colonel W. M. Coppage, Director of the Alabama Department of Public Safety (DPS), CAIR requested an investigation of the women’s complaints and a review of department policies banning head coverings in driver’s license photographs.
The letter noted that CAIR helped resolve similar complaints against the Bureau of Citizenship and Immigration Services (BCIS) of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. The new BCIS guidelines say that religious head coverings will be allowed “provided the subject of the photograph otherwise remains clearly identifiable.”
A recent survey by CAIR’s Civil Rights Department indicated that most other states allow a religious exemption to prohibitions against head coverings in driver’s license photographs.
“Alabama’s existing policy actually hinders proper identification by law enforcement authorities in the field because the Muslim women drivers would appear one way in the license photograph and look quite different in person,” said CAIR Civil Rights Coordinator Rizwan Qureshi. “Islamic headscarves are not equivalent to baseball caps or head bands that will not necessarily be worn when a driver is stopped by police.”
Qureshi noted that the Bush administration recently criticized France for proposing a law that would prohibit Muslim girls from wearing Islamic scarves in public schools. An administration official said wearing religious attire is “a basic right that should be protected.” Protests in defense of religious rights for French Muslims are scheduled at that country’s U.S. diplomatic offices nationwide on Saturday.
IMMEDIATE ACTION REQUESTED: (As always, be POLITE and RESPECTFUL.)
Contact the Alabama Department of Public Safety to request that they join other states in allowing a religious exemption to the policy prohibiting head coverings in driver’s license photographs.
Colonel W. M. Coppage
Alabama Department of Public Safety
500 Dexter Ave.
Montgomery, Alabama 36130