Georgia lawmaker withdraws anti-hijab bill after backlash

Women pray before the Americans Against Terrorism, Hate and Violence rally on the National Mall in Washington, DC, on July 23, 2016. More than 30 prominent Interfaith, Social NGOs and ethnic organizations including Muslim, Christian, Jewish, Buddhist, Sikh, Hindu, Bahai religions sponsored a rally with the participation of many other religious, ethnic institutions and communities to demonstrate their commitment to countering terrorism, hate and intolerance. / AFP / Andrew Biraj (Photo credit should read ANDREW BIRAJ/AFP/Getty Images)

A Georgia lawmaker withdrew a bill Thursday that would have criminalized Muslim women wearing religious headscarves 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 headscarves bill, wanted to change the law to include women wearing veils — like the niqab or hijab often worn by Muslims.

“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.

Adam Hamze is a politics intern at the Huffington Post, where this piece was previously published.

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