Minnesota’s hijab controversy could be cooling down.
A bill that would have banned headwear on driver’s license photos is on track to be revised after Muslim groups at the state and national level objected that the measure would violate freedom of religious expression.
The bill’s chief author, Rep. Steve Gottwalt, R-St. Cloud, said in a press release on Thursday that the bill wasn’t targeted toward religious headwear but was intended to correct problems law enforcement officials had reported with photos that “obscure identifying features, including baseball caps, cowboy hats, hoods, masks, ear muffs, scarves” and more.
“This bill has always been about public safety, and is not intended to offend any person or group of people,” he said
The bill will be amended, Gottwalt said, to mirror U.S. passport photo requirements, which “address the positive identification concerns of law enforcement authorities, while allowing for the hijab and other head coverings worn for religious or cultural purposes.”
The Minnesota Chapter of the Council on American Islamic Relations is waiting to see more details before dropping its campaign against the bill, said Taneeza Islam, who is the civil rights director for CAIR-MN.
Even if Gottwalt and the bill’s seven co-sponsors hadn’t intended to target Muslims, Sikhs and other groups representing tens of thousands of Minnesotans who wear religious head coverings, they at least failed to think of those groups when crafting their bill, she said.
“Neglecting to think of these faith communities is in and of itself a problem if they are representing the citizens of Minnesota,” Islam said. “Legislators need to be more concerned with how their bills are affecting all communities of Minnesota.”
Islam said she has received calls of support from Amish, Jewish and Sikh groups since CAIR-MN trumpeted its objections to the bill this week.
As introduced, the bill called for amending Minnesota law to require that the full head and face be shown on driver’s license photos and state ID cards except for headwear needed in connection with medical treatments or deformities.
The U.S. passport rules Gottwalt proposes to add in his amendment allow for religious headwear as long as facial features from bottom of chin to top of forehead and both edges of the face are clearly shown.
Specifically, Gottwalt said he will call for these Minnesota requirements:
* Include a full face, front view and open eyes.
* Make sure photo presents full head from top of hair to shoulders.
* Take the photo on a plain white or off-white background.
* Avoid shadows on the face or background.
* Face in photo should have a natural expression (closed mouth).
* Photos should not include sunglasses or hats.
* The contrast and lighting in the photo should be normal.