2011/12: Are new laws needed for police to require Muslim women to remove their burqas?
Introduction to the media issue
Video clip at right:
A Channel Seven news item from July 2011, on new powers given to police to demand that veils be removed from the faces of Muslim women. The new powers are the result of the Carnita Matthews case, in which a woman was jailed for making a false claim against police of forcibly removing her burqa. The sentence was later quashed. If you cannot see this clip, it will be because video is blocked by your network. To view the clip, access from home or from a public library, or from another network which allows viewing of video clips.
What they said...
'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'
New South Wales premier, Barry O'Farrel
'This won't do anything to enhance justice in New South Wales. Is there any evidence that without this law there would be some big crime problem going on? I don't think so'
Greg Barnes, the national president of the Australian Lawyers Alliance
The issue at a glance
On July 5, 2011, the New South Wales cabinet signed off on draft laws which give police the power to ask motorists to remove head coverings, including burqas, for the purpose of accurate identification.
Muslim women who refuse to remove their burqas when ordered to by police could be jailed for up to a year or fined up to $5,500. Similar legislation is likely to be adopted in Western Australia.
Victoria and Queensland have indicated that they do not currently believe their police need additional powers in order to deal with suspects wearing head and face coverings.
The New South Wales laws have meet with a mixed reaction both within the Muslim community in Australia and outside it.