Italians Plan to Follow France’s Example, Ban Full-Face Muslim Veils
Rome. Italy may soon seek a ban on full-face Muslim veils, following on from debate in France where President Nicolas Sarkozy has described the burqa as unwelcome and legislators are considering a vote to outlaw or restrict it.
Equal Opportunities Minister Mara Carfagna has said the Italian government will quickly follow in France’s footsteps, breathing new life into four draft bills on burqas already circulating in parliamentary committees.
“I completely agree with the French initiative, which I think will push other European countries and hence, also Italy, to enact laws on this issue,” Carfagna said this week. “This is about a sacrosanct battle to defend the dignity and rights of immigrant women.
“A law is being studied that would ban the use of a burqa and niqab, which are not religious symbols. That’s not us saying it but the top religious authorities of the Islamic world, like the imams of Cairo and Paris.”
Her comments came after a French parliamentary panel this week urged the National Assembly to pass a resolution denouncing full-face veils and then vote on the strictest law possible to ban women from wearing them. Critics see the burqa, a full veil with a slit for the eyes, as a symbol of the subjugation of women.
In Italy, the initiative has drawn strong support from the far-right, anti-immigrant Northern League party in Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi’s conservative government, though some opposition figures have also applauded the move.
The ban initiative also looks to have the backing of most Italians. A poll by the SWG polling group showed 71 percent of Italians were in favor of a ban on full-face veils.
Still, as in France, the issue has provoked sharp debate in Italy over whether a new law is needed, with leftist politicians and even some in Berlusconi’s coalition questioning whether legislation could be counterproductive.
“I’m convinced the burqa is a prison and a form of male dominance,” leftist senator Vittoria Franco said. “Having said that, I think it’s wrong to ban it because it would be an abstract intervention that would not help emancipate women.”
Others say wearing a burqa is already illegal under a 1975 anti-terrorism law that bars appearing in public with a masked face.
But lawmaker Souad Sbai, who has proposed amending the 1975 law to include the words “niqab” and “burqa”, says a clear message needs to be sent to dissuade young immigrant Muslim women from taking up face veils.
“If we do not ban it now, tomorrow we will have lots of women walking around in a niqab,” said Sbai, who is of Moroccan descent.