Italy party neglects religous freedom of Muslim women
Italy's far rightist party is to enforce the law to prosecute women who cover wear burqas in a move triggers concerns about Muslims' religious freedom.
Italy's far rightist Northern League party is to enforce the law to prosecute women who cover their faces with burqas and veils in a move triggers concerns about Muslims' religious freedom in the Catholic country.
The Northern League, allies of conservative Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, want to amend a 1975 law, introduced amid worries over homegrown guerrilla groups, which punishes with hefty fines and up to two years in jail people covering their faces with anything preventing their identification by police.
Roberto Cota, head of the Northern League deputies who signed the proposal, said it was motivated by security concerns.
It would extend an existing partial ban on face-covering clothing to include "garments worn for reasons of religious affiliation", and removes the expression "justified cause" which has prompted some courts to allow them on religious grounds.
Mario Scialoja, a retired Italian diplomat who sits on the board of the Islamic Cultural Centre of Italy, warned against passing a law that would stigmatise Muslims.
"A ban (on the burqa) would be xenophobic and discriminatory. The existing law should be enforced," Scialoja told Reuters, urging Italian authorities to treat women with respect. "We say no to a new law".
The draft legislation is hotly opposed by the centre-left opposition as well as among Italy's roughly 1.2 million Muslims, almost two percent of the mainly Catholic population.
Donatella Ferranti, a member of the opposition Democratic Party, criticised the plan as "unconstitutional because it infringes on religious freedom".
Berlusconi's centre-right coalition has clashed with the Muslim community in the past over its opposition to the construction of new mosques.
France, whose five million Muslims make up Europe's largest Islamic minority, banned Muslim headscarves in state schools in 2004 and a recent proposal for a burqa ban has sparked outcry in the Muslim world.
Reuters Last Mod: 09 Ekim 2009, 03:22