FOZ DO IGUAÇU, Brazil – Muslim women in Brazil would be allowed to don hijab in their drive licenses, national IDs and passports after the western border city of Foz do Iguaçu installed a new policy for the Muslim headscarf.
“The hijab is not a fantasy,” Mohsin Alhassani, director of the Mosque Omar Ibn al Kattab from Foz do Iguaçu and the most prominent Muslim leader in the community, told Latino Fox News.
“It is part of a mandatory dressing of the Muslim women. It is really obligatory for our religion.”
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Hijab drew national attention in Brazil after a Muslim resident, Ahlam Abdul El-Saifi, refused to remove the outfit for her driver’s license photo in the city of Sao Bernardo do Campo, in the state of Sao Paulo.
The local Department of Traffic said at the time that they only follow the rules of the state.
Neiva Schaffer, a long-time Muslim resident of Foz do Iguaçu, complained about the policy.
“In this case your identity is upside down,” she told TV Globo's Jornal Nacional.
“You feel terribly embarrassed.”
Neoclair Santo Silvestrini, from a local Department of Traffic branch, criticized the decision as an “absurd”, denying any intention of discrimination.
“Probably the person responsible feared of being punished,” said Silvestrini
Offering a settlement for the issue, Foz do Iguaçu city Board of Aldermen approved a new law and sent a proposal to Brazilian national authorities to allow an exception for Muslim women to take pictures for official documents while donning hijab.
These documents include driver's licenses, national IDs, and passports.
While hijab is an obligatory code of dress for Muslim women, the majority of Muslim scholars agree that a woman is not obliged to wear the face veil.Scholars believe it is up to women to decide whether to take on the niqab or burqa, a loose outfit covering the whole body from head to toe and wore by some Muslim women.
The new proposal won plaudits from federal police officers in Brazil who accepted the exception for Muslim women when issuing passport photos.
“It is allowed without any major problem, but of course the only requirement is that their face should appear clearly”, explained Guilherme Biagi, a Federal Police officer assigned in the state of Parana.
The Brazilian National Institute of Identification and the Department of Traffic has 30 days to respond the request made by Foz do Iguaçu's Board of Aldermen.
Foz do Iguaçu has around 20,000 Muslim residents out of 255,000 total inhabitants.
According to the 2001 census, there are 27,239 Muslims in Brazil.
However, the Islamic Brazilian Federation puts the number at around one and a half million.
Islam expert Paulo Pinto of Fuminense Federal University estimated Brazil is home to about a million Muslims.
With no confirmed number of Muslims, the best indicator of the growth of Islam in the country is the rapid increase in the number of mosques.There are now 127 mosques, four times as many as there were back in 2000.
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