Muslim women in Australia’s most populous state will have to remove their face-veils to have their signatures officially witnessed under new stricter identity check laws.
(Ahlul Bayt News Agency) - "If a person refuses to show their face, an authorized witness must decline to sign their documents unless the person has a legitimate medical reason for keeping their face covered," Greg Smith, attrney general of the New South Wales state, said in a statement cited by the Guardian on Monday, March 5."In some situations, it means individuals wearing full or partial face-covering garments will need to reveal their faces for the purposes of identification."
Coming into effect on April 30, the new laws will apply to statutory declarations and affidavits.
They will cover anything that conceals a person's face, including motorcycle helmets, masks, face-veils as burqas or niqabs.
Those who refuse would not have their document authenticated and could also face a fine of $220.
Justifying the new tougher rules, Smith referred to a recent case by a Sydney woman, Carnita Matthews, 47, who was sentenced in 2010 to six months' jail for falsely accusing a police officer of trying forcibly to remove her face-veil
Later on, she made a criminal complaint to police three days after she was pulled over from her car in Woodbine, southwest Sydney, for a random breath test on June 7, 2010.
New South Wales is home to 168.788 Muslims, about 49.6 percent of the total population, making the state a habitat to the largest Muslim population, according to the 2006 government Census.
Muslims, who have been in Australia for more than 200 years, make up 1.7 percent of its 20-million population.
Islam is the country's second largest religion after Christianity.
While hijab is an obligatory code of dress for Muslim women, the majority of Muslim scholars agree that a woman is not obliged to wear the face veil, or niqab, but believe that it is up to women to decide whether to cover her face.