Somali student group protests bare-head ID bill

Image courtesy of BohPhoto on Flickr

A St. Cloud legislator's bill would require full exposure of the head and face in driver's license photos. A Somali group says the proposal would violate their freedom of religion.

State Rep. Steve Gottwalt, of St. Cloud, introduced the bill last month. The Somali United Movement, a group of college-aged Somalis working to improve community relations for Somalis in Minnesota, noticed the bill last week and issued a press release protesting it.

Rep. Gottwalt could not be immediately reached for comment, but here is the text of the bill:

Every license must bear a colored photograph or an electronically produced image of the licensee that shows the full head and face of the person.

Here is what the Somali United Movement press release said:

This legislation will impact the lives of thousands of Muslim women in Minnesota from diverse ethnic and social backgrounds who cover their hair as an expression of faith.

Not only does this prospective requirement violate the right to religion of marginalized communities particularly that of Muslim women, but the requirement also creates additional problems.

Even if women remove their head covering for a photo, they would continue to wear this covering in their daily routines - causing them to run into issues when they must show proof of ID for various social, and security purposes.

"Full head shot technically means you need a 3-D shot," says Hindia Ali, who is part of the student group. " We can't afford a 3-D shot in the recession right now."

"This does not just offend Muslims, it also offends Sikh -- their men wear a turban on their head for cultural and religious reasons," Ali says.