Muslim women and drivers license photos

I heard about this Muslim woman in Florida that wouldn’t take off her burka (veil) for her driver’s license. I can understand her objection but how else would we identify her?

What do they do in Muslim countries that allow women to drive? Do they make them take off their burkas or do they take the photos of them showing nothing but their eyes through those slits in the burka?

In some Muslim countries, women are not allowed to drive at all.

I realize that there are other threads near this topic but I didn’t want to hijack the other threads.

Muslim woman refuses to remove veil for license photo


Hey Sultaana Freeman, show the DMV your mug or stay off the road

Also, if the “veil” isn’t called a burka, forgive my ignorance. I got the word from a co-worker.

Yep, that’s why I asked “What do they do in Muslim countries that allow women to drive.” Some of them do. What about them?

I wondered this myself. The reason I see for making her take off her veil is that it’s easier to tell one person from another when you can see the whole face. Are the police in those Muslim countries that allow women to drive just better at telling people apart just by their eyes or do they call in a female officer (assuming they allow female officers) to check the face against an unveiled picture?

This CNN story indicates that women in Muslim countries have to take off their veils for ID pictures. (See the box “Driver’s identification rules in Muslim nations” about halfway down the page.)

Burka is not a veil. Burka is full body covering, with eye holes. See Afghanistan.

Some vocabularly then:

Hijab: head scarf. Covers the hair. Obviously can be worn in many ways. Many call this a ‘veil’ – this is the most common thing to see.

Niqab: veil, or face veil. covers the face.

Chador: Iranian traditional, sometimes more like a burka, us. open face now.

Abaya: Arab trad. Full body but us. with open face.

Remember that there are only a few countries out there where it is the norm to wear veils that obscure the face. Even in countries where people do wear face-covering veils, not everyone does and it is considered a very personal choice related as much to one’s age and political leanings (surprisingly, veils have taken on an air of subversivness in some countries) as much as with one’s religion. Most of the world’s Muslim women consider a headscarf and an outfit that does not reveal the shap of the body (often just a shapeless coat) to be modest enough to fulfill their religious beliefs.

According to the sidebar in the CNN article linked above, it seems to be the norm for women to show their face for ID photos.

Collounsbury: What’s the term for the mask I saw some of the women wearing in the UAE?

From MEBuckner’s link to CNN:

In another story, the woman says she is a member of the Salafiyyah group.

Sunni Muslim fundamentalists ( as if anyone couldn’t figure that out already ). Not quite a sect per se, but more a philosophy.

  • Tamerlane

It seems to me awhile back I recall Pennslyvania DL without photos for the amish.

Tamerlane, we ought to call a spade a spade: The ones that call themselves “Salafi” are Wahhabis, no more, no less. They don’t want to be called Wahhabi for some reason, so “Salafi” is Wahhabi-speak for ‘Wahhabi’.

They are an extremist tendency and as such do not represent normative Islam. Their goal is to impose a repressive conformity on the Muslim world (a splinter group of them is al-Qâ‘idah and its ilk; this does not mean that all Wahhabis agree with al-Qâ‘idah’s terrorism—most of them don’t—but they share the same repressive theological tendency).

Welll…Historically, not quite. The theorists of modern Salafist thought in the 19th century, folks like Muhammed 'Abduh and Rashid Rida, were not actually Wahhabis and were a little less rigid in their theology, though they were certainly influenced by it. Wahhabism and Salafism have become somewhat interchangeable in terminology these days, but I prefer a stricter definition of salafism as a school of thought and Wahhabism as a sect. In other words, salafism as the broader concept of which Wahhabism is a subset ( even though Wahhabism actually somewhat predates salafism as a formulated body of thought ). Wahhabism to me implies certain specific practices, like Hanbali jurisprudence, that need not be necessarily be associated with salafism as a philosophy.

However - Pious Wahhabis do frequently prefer to refer to themselves by the appellation of salafi, so in this particular instance your observation is probably spot on.


The al-Qaeda-style extremists are generally referred as “Jihadist-Salafists”, to distinguish them from the less militant types.

  • Tamerlane

JM: Actually you might find this interesting - It’s an article on the differences between student Rida and mentor Abduh over the Baha’i faith and the possible origins of Rida’s theology in a socio-cultural sense:

  • Tamerlane

I knew it: the misuse of the word “Salafi” has caused confusion in even one of our well-informed scholars. This is one of my major gripes with the Wahhabis appropriating that name.

There is no actual continuity or connection between the original Salafis of 100 years ago and the Wahhabis who call themselves by that name. They are two totally different groups; their ideas about reforming Islam are almost diametrically opposed; the original Salafis promoted a modern, rationalistic interpretation of Islam, while the Wahhabis bitterly condemn all such approaches. The original Salafis have been extinct for many years, and anyone who goes by that name nowadays is in fact a Wahhabi.

But kudos points to Tamerlane who at least knows the previous meaning of Salafi; few Muslims today (except students of history) have ever even heard of them.

Oh, I wouldn’t go quite that far:

*Salafism is a creed founded in the late nineteenth century by Muslim reformers such as Muhammad 'Abduh, al-Afghani and Rashid Rida. Salafism appealed to a very basic concept in Islam: Muslims ought to follow the precedent of the Prophet and his companions (al-salaf al-salih). Methodologically, Salafism was nearly identical to Wahhabism except that Wahhabism is far less tolerant of diversity and differences of opinion. The founders of Salafism maintained that on all issues Muslims ought to return to the Qur’an and the sunna (precedent) of the Prophet. In doing so, Muslims ought to reinterpret the original sources in light of modern needs and demands, without being slavishly bound to the interpretations of earlier Muslim generations.

As originally conceived, Salafism was not necessarily anti-intellectual, but like Wahhabism, it did tend to be uninterested in history…Importantly, Salafism was founded by Muslim nationalists who were eager to read the values of modernism into the original sources of Islam. Hence, Salafism was not necessarily anti-Western. In fact, its founders strove to project contemporary institutions such as democracy, constitutions or socialism into the foundational texts, and to justify the modern nation-state within Islam.

The liberal age of Salafism came to an end in the 1960s. After 1975, Wahhabism was able to rid itself of its extreme intolerance, and proceeded to coopt Salafism until the two became practically indistinguishable. *


Hey, Ill take my kudos where I can get them :D.

  • Tamerlane

p.s. - I’m still inclined to label folks like those in Algeria’s GIA as salafist, but not Wahhabi, for the reasons I stated above. But again, I think you’re almost certainly on target as regards this particular young woman.

Khaled Abou El Fadl is the very best Islamic liberal scholar there is these days, so I’ll accord considerable weight to his reading of history. Actually, what he wrote there can support both what you said and what I said.

The tenuous link, if any could be said to exist, that connects the original Salafis with the Wahhabis is the “reformist” tendency that flourished in the 19th century and was aimed at the traditional Ottoman system, which the reformers felt to be moribund.

That reformist tendency was widespread and took many different forms. The Salafism of Muhammad ‘Abduh and Muhammad Rashîd Ridâ was perhaps the best articulated. There was also a 19th-century reformist tendency in Sufism, originated by Ahmad ibn Idrîs in North Africa, out of which the Sanûsîyah movement grew (it was the Sanûsî monarchy of Libya that al-Qadhdhâfî overthrew in 1969). Deobandism in India also grew out of a reformist movement within a certain stream of Naqshbandi Sufism (which already had a more legalistic approach than other Sufis).

As we have seen, Deobandism in the 20th century eventually hardened and turned extremely fundie, which squeezed out the last remnants of anything recognizable as Sufism and went so far as to become the bedfellow of al-Qâ‘idah jihadism. Ugh. For anyone who values Sufism as the gentle, loving antidote to Wahhabi hatemongering, this was a real tragedy in the classical sense of the word.

Historians think that Wahhabism, which started in the 18th century and was the first indigenous anti-Ottoman movement within the Sunni Muslim world, was the impetus that got these other reformist tendencies going. Maybe so, maybe anti-establishment tendencies would have happened anyway as the Ottoman system showed its cracks.

But Khaled Abou El Fadl brought out a crucial difference between the Azhar Salafis and the Wahhabis: Muhammad ‘Abduh and his friends were modernist rationalist intellectuals. Wahhabism is hardcore anti-intellectual and antirational, as incompatible as can be.

That’s why the differences between the two groups known as “Salafis” far outweigh the tenuous historical link which was more of circumstance than substance. The Wahhabis claim to be recovering the original Islam from the sources, but this is quite specious: all they have recovered is the extremist Hanbalite tendency originated by Ibn Taymîyah in the 14th century, a maverick who was considered a heretic in his own time.

The Azhar Wahhabis made a similar claim, but they read their modernist bias into the same source material. In the modern age, it became a fad to make this claim, but so many different groups claiming this have drawn such different conclusions that I never take these claims at face value.

The modern Wahhabis-so-called-Salafis like our friend in Florida seem to have devolved into a lumpen-idiot cult that uses the outward language and terminology of Islam while trashing the whole spirit of the faith. You cannot have any dialogue with these types or reason with them. They are to Islam as Fred Phelps and Jack Chick are to Christianity; regular Muslims feel just as embarrassed and offended by them as our Polycarp or tomndebb feel about Phelps and Chick.

I loved the late Yitzhak Rabin for what he said to the violent Jewish Wahhaboids: “Sensible Judaism spits you out.” That’s the sort of thing the mainstream Christian, Muslim, and Hindu leaders need to say to their own Wahhaboid types who are busy trying to trash their respective religions.

The Amish need Driver’s Licenses? What is that road test like? I can’t imagine what it takes to parallel park a horse and buggy.