Den australske delstaten New South Wales – også den mest folkerike – har foreslått en burkalov som gir ett års fengsel for den som nekter å vise ansiktet til politiet.
Bakgrunnen er en sak der en politimann ble anklaget for å ha forsøkt å rive sløret av en sjåfør. Anklagen viste seg å være falsk.
Sydney’s best-selling The Daily Telegraph newspaper declared the proposal «the world’s toughest burqa laws.» In France, wearing a burqa — the all-covering garment that hides the entire body except eyes and hands — in public is punishable by a 150 euro ($217) fine only.
The New South Wales state Cabinet decided to create the law on July 4 in response to Police Commissioner Andrew Scipione’s call for greater police powers. Other states including Victoria and Western Australia are considering similar legislation.
«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,» State Premier Barry O’Farrell said in a statement.
The laws were motivated by the bungled prosecution of Carnita Matthews, a 47-year-old Muslim mother of seven who was booked by a highway patrolman for a minor traffic violation in Sydney in June last year.
An official complaint was made in Matthews’ name against Senior Constable Paul Fogarty, the policeman who gave her the ticket. The complaint accused Fogarty of racism and of attempting to tear off her veil during their roadside encounter.
Unknown to Matthews, the encounter was recorded by a camera inside Fogarty’s squad car. The video footage showed her aggressively berating a restrained Fogarty and did not support her claim that he tried to grab her veil before she reluctantly and angrily lifted it to show her face.
Matthews was sentenced in November to six months in jail for making a deliberately false statement to police.
But that conviction and sentence were quashed on appeal last month without her serving any time in jail because a judge was not convinced that it was Matthews who signed the false statutory declaration. The woman who signed the document had worn a burqa and a justice of the peace who witnessed the signing had not looked beneath the veil to confirm her identity.