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NZ police union wants ban on burqa-wearing drivers

Written by: Staff

WELLINGTON, Apr 5 (Reuters) New Zealand's police union wants to ban Muslim women wearing burqas from driving for safety reasons and also because criminals may start using burqas to hide their identity, local media reported today.

''We deal with criminals who will very quickly cotton on to the fact that it's to their advantage to be driving around wearing burqas,'' Police Association president Greg O'Connor told domestic newsagency New Zealand Press Association (NZPA).

The call for a ban follows a new police policy on burqas which stipulates that women police officers should be responsible for confirming the identity of Muslim women wearing burqas, as they can not reveal their faces to men under Islamic culture.

O'Connor said all motorists should be treated equally and drivers should not hide their identity.

''I think the issue is if women are that strongly in their beliefs around the burqa, then perhaps they shouldn't drive,'' he told Radio New Zealand.

President of the Federation of Islamic Associations said police were within their rights to ask a Muslim woman driver to reveal her identity, but to impose a ban on burqa-wearing drivers was excessive.

''If the police have strong suspicions about a person who is a driver and (they are) wearing a burqa, then they are well within their rights to stop the car and do their investigation in line with the police policy,'' Javed Khan told NZPA.

''But saying that a person who is wearing a burqa cannot drive a car -- I think that is going a bit far.'' Muslims make up less than one per cent of New Zealand's four million population.

Reuters SI GC0848

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