...y'all *need* to read this:
Sun Sep 1 00:12:24 CDT 2002
Ex-Decatur woman fights for veiled photo on license: Florida officials insist on facial identification
By HUEY FREEMAN H&R Staff Writer
Sultaana Freeman applied for a drivers license in Florida after she moved there from Decatur in the spring of 2001.
She was issued a license with a photo of herself with a veil, which she wears because of her Muslim beliefs.
But about one month after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, Freeman received a letter from the state's highway safety and motor vehicles department, requesting that she take another photo for her license -- without the veil, or niqab,
which covers her entire face except for her eyes.
Freeman, 34, refused to take an unveiled photo.
With the backing of the ACLU, she is suing the state of Florida, asking for reinstatement of her driving privileges.
Freeman's lawsuit, which has provided fodder for radio talk shows and editorial writers throughout the nation, cleared its first hurdle when a judge ruled in late June that she can proceed with her case.
Howard Marks, Freeman's attorney, said he is confident she will win when the case is tried next year because the state has to show a compelling interest to continue to deny her a license.
He said it has been a burden on Freeman and her family to forgo driving privileges.
"She would like to take her child with her to do errands," Marks said. "But her religious beliefs are more important to her."
Freeman, 34, who converted to Islam in Decatur about five years ago, declined a request for an interview.
Taqiyyah Abdullah-Shakur, a friend of Freeman's, met her shortly after her conversion.
"When she converted, she didn't veil, but soon after she did," said Abdullah-Shakur, a children services supervisor at a Decatur social services agency. "Almost every time I saw her she was wearing a veil."
Abdullah-Shakur said Freeman, a good friend and "very nice person" who worked at Illinois Power Co. for many years, wears a veil as an indication of her deep faith.
"Each of us has levels of Islam that we travel to," she said. "We all have different levels of learning and faith, and hers is obviously a different level."
Freeman did not have many close friends within the Islamic community, said Abdullah-Shakur.
"She was basically a loner," she said.
A native of Washington, D.C., Freeman's sojourn in Decatur, which lasted at least 12 years, was marred by violence.
She was convicted of aggravated battery after she "caused bodily harm" to twin 3-year-old girls, according to court documents. She was sentenced to 18 months' probation and court costs, completing her probation in January 2001.
In June 1997, Freeman requested an order of protection against a man she said had beaten her with a baseball bat. The man, an ex-convict from Chicago who had "Latin Kings" tattooed on his forearm, claimed that he had married her in an Islamic
wedding, although it was not recognized by the state.
It was also in 1997 that she legally changed her name from Sandra M. Keller to Sultaana LaKiana Myke, court documents show.
She is married to Abdul Maalik Freeman, a Florida man who visited her in Decatur in the months before they were wed. They have a 14-month-old daughter.
Freeman has said the Illinois drivers license she carried when she moved south contained her veiled image.
Beth Kaufman, deputy press secretary for the secretary of state, said the veiled picture was a mistake.
In Illinois, if someone refuses to take a photo on religious grounds, he or she must obtain an approval signature of a minister. The driver is then issued a nonphoto drivers license.
Press secretary Dave Druker said the secretary of state's office is contacting two women in the state who have veiled photos to ask them to either retake their photos or claim religious exemptions.
But Florida law does not provide for religious exemptions, said Robert Sanchez, public information administrator for the state's department of highway safety and motor vehicles.
"The Florida statute plainly states that the drivers license photos should have a full facial view," he said. "She was issued a license that did not have a full facial view by error."
Sanchez said his office was informed of Freeman's veiled license photo by a law enforcement agency in Orlando, near Freeman's Winter Park home.
Of the 14 million drivers in Florida, Sanchez said only one other veiled photo has turned up lately. In the other case, the driver did not respond to her letter and her license was canceled.
Sanchez said one woman was turned away from a Daytona Beach license facility because she wore a head covering that did not fully reveal her face.
"She came back and retracted her head covering to comply with the law so the full face showed, and she got her drivers license," he said.
While Freeman waits for a court ruling that could reinstate her driving privileges, she is acting out of individual religious commitment, rather than Islamic mandate, according to Islamic leaders and scholars.
"It is not necessary to wear the veil," said Lila Fahlman, director of the World Council of Muslim Women, based in Alberta, Canada. "It is an old idea created by men as a way of controlling women. It has been around for centuries. It is the men's way of dominating the women."
Fahlman -- who said she once yanked a veil off a young woman driver because she felt her safety was threatened by the driver's limited vision -- scoffed at the notion that Florida is infringing on Freeman's rights.
"Baloney," she said. "It's not truly a violation of religious freedom. The only time you have to cover your head is when you are in a mosque praying. You never have to cover your face."
Valerie Hoffman, a religious studies professor at the University of Illinois who specializes in Islam, said the majority of Islamic scholars agree a veil is not required.
"I do not understand a convert to Islam within America who insists that the religion mandates that she cover her face," said Hoffman, who has visited most Arab countries and lived in Egypt for four years. "Most Muslims would consider that extreme."
Hoffman said legal scholars agree women are required to cover all but the face, hands and feet in public or in front of strange men. But in all the Islamic world, only women who live in Saudi Arabia and Qatar must cover their faces, because of a minority interpretation of Islamic law.
Sanchez said it is important to police officers for all drivers to carry identifiable photos.
"If you stop a driver and they hand you a license, how do you know that is the same person? A veiled picture might as well be no picture."
While Sanchez said that driving has been ruled a privilege rather than a right by courts, he acknowledges that Freeman's case might change the way things are done in Florida.
"If the court case goes against the state, we might have to make exceptions," he said.
Huey Freeman can be reached at 421-6985. http://www.herald-review.com/rednews/2002/09/01/build/Local_News/localnews1.php
Thank you, George. Sounds like there's enough difference between this case and the others to make it different. No photo vs. masked photo. We'll see.
You seem to be hung up on the use of the phrase "Christian fundamentalist". Why is that, George?
Great find! It is amazing how many Freepers have ignored your finding and are caught up in the Islamo veil babble.
She is a child abuser and wanted the veil to hide her identity.
She is one really big and probably very scary person!
This woman seems to be searching for a punching bag, as my impression is she has a lot of anger inside her. Hopefully, her neighbors will keep an eye on her little toddler.
No, please tell us what word you'd rather use than the word far-left media writers and blood-sucking lawyers use?
what better way to not get violated. Put the veil on. just a citizen taking advantage of the islam can't catch me scam. hey it's all about freedom. could go on but just down right tired. take the baton ???
Leave the veil on...it will save the taxpayers the money for camera replacement.
Ahhhh.. the PLOT THICKENS!!!
This should have won the most assinine issue award anyway.... but now that some light is being shed on it all.. it at least makes some kind of sense.. even if it is NONSENSE!
F--- her and the Arabian stallion she rode in on. She just wants her fifteen minutes of fame; she got it; so, as I said at the outset, F--- her and...