In New South Whales, Australia (NSW), a Muslim woman has defied authorities and, most recently, allegedly avoided being arrested by hiding behind her burqa. The woman, Carnita Matthews, has a history of traffic violations, with the latest incident sparking major police concerns over Islamic face coverings. The Herald Sun has more:
Since she first received her learner licence in 1998 at the age of 33, she has twice had her provisional licence suspended for totting up too many demerit points and twice had her licence suspended for non payment of fines.
The State Debt Recovery Office had to recover the fines. Both of those two suspensions for non payment of fines were later lifted. It is not known how many times she was physically stopped by police.
Matthews was stopped last year for not displaying the proper plates on her vehicle. As a result, NSW police fined her $276. She then allegedly filed a claim that the officer who arrested her had attempted to tear her burqa off — an accusation that was found to be a lie based on police cameras that captured the incident. The footage also shows the woman yelling “You are racist” as the cop questioned her.
Based on her alleged claim and the video evidence, she was found guilty last year by a magistrate for making a deliberately false statement. Matthews decided to appeal, claiming that there was no proof it was she who made the claim that the officer had forcefully tried to expose her face. Her appeal was upheld, as the judge, due to her covering, could not definitively determine that she was the person who made the claim. The Sun has more:
[After the judge ruled] more than a dozen Muslim supporters linked arms and began chanting “Allah Akbar” as they stormed out of Downing Centre Court with Mrs Matthews concealed behind them.
Tempers rose and they began jostling with police after several members of the group attacked cameramen.
It marked a stark difference from their behaviour minutes earlier, when they had quietly assembled outside the lifts for prayer shortly after the judge’s decision.
Mrs Matthew’s lawyer Stephen Hopper defended their actions saying: “They are obviously happy with the result and are expressing it in a way that is culturally appropriate to them.”
Now, authorities are calling for tighter laws that would prevent cases like this in the future, as current regulations governing facial coverings are said to be unclear. This case may have a profound impact on how the issue of facial covering is handled by authorities in Australia moving forward.
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