A Georgia lawmaker withdrew a bill Thursday that would have criminalized Muslim women wearing religious face coverings in public after it received widespread condemnation.
House Bill 3 would have amended an anti-mask rule originally intended to keep Ku Klux Klan members from wearing hoods to commit anonymous hate crimes. Rep. Jason Spencer (R-Woodbine), who authored the bill, wanted to change the law to include women wearing veils — like the niqab or burqa.
“After further consideration, I have decided to not pursue HB 3 in the upcoming 2017 legislative session due to the visceral reaction it has created,” Spencer said in a statement. “While this bill does not contain language that specifically targets any group, I am mindful of the perception that it has created.”
Spencer introduced the bill following a spike in hate crimes across the country — especially against Muslim women ― since the presidential victory of Donald Trump, who has promised to ban Muslim immigration. It sparked concern from Georgia’s Muslim community.
Members of Georgia’s Council for American-Islamic Relations said support from interfaith partners helped stop the bill.
“First of all, we want to thank Rep. Spencer for doing the right thing by withdrawing the bill,”Edward Ahmed Mitchell, Georgia CAIR executive director, told The Huffington Post. “We thank our coalition partners, Muslim and non-Muslim alike, who stood up for religious freedom. It was reassuring to see the Georgia community uniting so quickly to say that this is not acceptable.”
Representatives from these interfaith organizations attempted to contact Spencer before he withdrew the bill, Mitchell said, but did not hear back.
“We still hope to meet with him, thank him, and build bridges,” Mitchell said.
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CORRECTION: A previous version of this story said the law would target hijabs. The headscarves do not obscure a woman’s face, so it’s not clear whether hijabs would have been outlawed under the law.