Rome, October 9 – The decision by a northern Italian city official to allow Muslim women to wear the burqa has sparked consternation in the country, even though at least one minister supported the move. “We have already said several times, and we reiterate it now, that the use of the burqa is unacceptable,” said a spokesman for Interior Minister Giulio Amato.
A 1975 law, introduced amid concern over homegrown terrorism in the country’s cities, forbids Italians from appearing in public wearing anything which covers their faces. Apart from this law, which appears to apply to the burqa, many politicians on both sides of parliament said the garment was also a humiliating imposition. “I am indignant. Covering up women’s faces is an offence to their dignity,” said Equal Opportunities Minister Barbara Pollastrini.
Vittorio Capocelli, the prefect of Treviso in the Veneto region, decided on October 5 that it was acceptable for Muslim women in the city to wear the garment as long as they were ready to remove it and identify themselves to police when required. A day later Family Minister Rosy Bindi, a prominent Catholic politician, indicated her agreement, saying that it was right to be “respectful of the veil” as long as women wore it of their own free will.
The apparent green light for the burqa drew a stinging editorial from Egyptian-born writer and journalist Magdi Allam in Tuesday’s edition of Corriere della Sera, Italy’s best-selling daily. “If the prefect’s decision sets a legal and administrative precedent on a national level, Islamic women could soon be going to school completely covered, be getting hired in workplaces and circulating freely all over Italy,” he wrote.