Australian state toughens law on burqa

Melbourne: Burqa-clad Muslim women in Australia`s most populous state will have to remove face veils as part of new tough identity check laws in New South Wales (NSW).

The revised laws, which will come into force from April 30, will empower Justice officials with authority to look under religious face-coverings.

NSW Attorney General Greg Smith said "Justice of the Peace and lawyers will in future be required to ask anybody to remove all head coverings, including motorcycle helmets and masks, to prove who they are in case of statutory declarations. In some situations it means individuals wearing full and partial face-covering garments will need to reveal their face for the purpose of identification.

The new tough laws on veils were passed on December 23 by the state Parliament that introduced a USD 5,900 fine and a 12 month prison sentence for anyone who refuses to remove face-coverings when requested by the police.

The tough laws are in 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 `naqab.` The judge in the case had overturned the conviction because the policeman did not look under the veil.

The NSW authorities launched an information campaign to ensure that the public and officials were aware of new penalties before they came into force.

NSW is the first Australian state to enact tough burqa laws, but other states, including Victoria and Western Australia are also considering similar legislations.

Muslims are among the most expanding minorities in Australia with estimates ranging that they number about 400,000 in a population of 23 million.