World | Australia

New Australian law targets wearing of veils

Identity checks are mandatory to validate documents

  • AP
  • Published: 22:45 March 5, 2012
  • Gulf News

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  • Image Credit: Reuters
  • The Australian government on Monday began an information campaign to ensure the public and officials are aware of the new penalties before they come into force. Picture used for illustrative purposes only
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Canberra, Australia: Muslim women in Australia's most populous state will have to remove veils to have their signatures officially witnessed under the latest laws giving New South Wales officials authority to look under religious face coverings.

New South Wales state Attorney General Greg Smith said in a statement on Monday that beginning April 30, officials such as justices of the peace and lawyers who witness statutory declarations or affidavits without making identity checks will be fined A$220 (Dh862.78).

"If a person is wearing a face covering, an authorised witness should politely and respectfully ask them to show their face," Smith said.

The face coverings also include motorcycle helmets and masks.

The government on Monday began an information campaign to ensure the public and officials are aware of the new penalties before they come into force.

The laws are a response to a court case last year in which a Sydney woman was convicted of falsely claiming that a traffic policeman had attempted to remove her niqab — a veil that reveals only the eyes.

A judge overturned the conviction because the official who witnessed the false claim did not look under the veil of the person who made it, so the judge was not certain that the defendant was responsible.


The latest laws were passed on December 23 by the state parliament.

They follow New South Wales laws passed last year that introduced a A$5,500 fine and a 12-month prison sentence for anyone who refuses to remove face coverings when requested to do so by police.

Ikebal Patel, president of the Australian Federation of Islamic Councils and an advocate for Australian Muslims, said while some Muslims regarded the laws as a knee-jerk reaction to the court case, the majority did not object.

"I don't object as long as the laws are enforced with respect and sensitivity," Patel said.

Patel said he was also a justice of the peace and would never witness a document without seeking proof of the author's identity.

Alternative option

He said Muslim women can find female justices of the peace working at most post offices. Women who object to showing policemen their faces have an option of being taken to a police station where their identities can be confirmed by a female official.

New South Wales laws demanding the removal of religious face coverings are an Australian first, although other states including Victoria and Western Australia are considering similar legislation.

Comments (11)

  1. Added 15:36 March 6, 2012

    Australia is not a Muslim country. If they have a law that women should show their face, it applies to all Australian residents and citizens. The fact that only Muslim women wear a face veil has nothing to do with the law targeting Muslims specifically. The law is in force because a Muslim woman last year who had been caught speeding said she wasn't driving, but someone else was driving. Authorities could not identify the driver. She refused to reveal her face to the police officer, therefore, to avoid this from happening again, the law is in place. Perfectly valid law. If you want to live in Australia, do as the rest of the country does and abide by the same rules. Simple

    John, Dubai, United Arab Emirates

  2. Added 15:05 March 6, 2012

    There is a requirement to dress decently in public places in many "muslim" countries and it's strictly imposed by law. So there is nothing wrong if decency is considered as an opened face in other countries and instead of covering the body they ask you to uncover the face. Agree 100%.

    Ivan, Abu Dhabi, Russian Federation

  3. Added 13:55 March 6, 2012

    Ech country has their own set of rules and regulations which needs to be followed if you want to live on their soil. Moreover Australia dint banned the usage of Hijab in public but one must reveal when its asked by the federal authority, police in this case. No one is stopping their freedom or the harming their dignity.

    George , dubai, United Arab Emirates

  4. Added 13:42 March 6, 2012

    Niqab is personal choise so It can be asked to remove with respect, Even Hijab can be requested to be removed by Female security person, but ask with respect. Do not disrepect anybody and do what seems necessary.So It is nothing Sensational.

    Ahmad, Dubai, United Arab Emirates

  5. Added 13:17 March 6, 2012

    In Islam, Muslim woman should not show their face in open places except its extremely required. If women are allowed to wear short dress than she should also allowed to do whatever she wants to do to HIDE herself. I personally disagree on this law.

    Shahid Mahmood, Dubai, Pakistan

  6. Added 13:10 March 6, 2012

    We should respect the laws of any country we are in. But in a world where women are moving around with 10 % of clothng on only, it is quite unfair to disrespect the muslim women only. Everybody has to be given the right to wear whatever he or she likes, despite any culture or creed.

    Sadaaya, Dubai, United Arab Emirates

  7. Added 12:22 March 6, 2012

    All European countries always fighting about freedom of women that " Women can do this.. what they want do like man.." So why they objecting by using "Hijab" or covering the face? If women want do like this so allow them otherwise we can say in Europe women freedom is not there.

    SYED FAISAL ALI, Dubai, United Arab Emirates

  8. Added 09:50 March 6, 2012

    Extremely fair. It has to be known by non Muslims that the Niqab is not a requirement of the Sharia Law but a cultural choice.

    Sarmad C, Dubai, United Arab Emirates

  9. Added 09:34 March 6, 2012

    Being a muslim woman, it is allowed in Islam to show the face. There is one hadith which says that when Bibi Asma daughter of Abu Bakr r.a., entered mohammad s.a.w's house wearing thin clothing, he told her 'O Asma’! When a girl reaches the menstrual age, it is not proper that anything should remain exposed except this and this. He pointed to the face and hands." [Abu Dawud] (hands means Palm till wrist only). So all muslims are requested to not be objectionable if asked to uncover the face. But to remove the headscarf would be objectionable!

    ASNA, Sharjah, United Arab Emirates

  10. Added 09:25 March 6, 2012

    Highly misleading headline, very sensationalist.

    Anthony Permal, Dubai, United Arab Emirates

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