Muslim woman fined for wearing burqa in northern Italy

Muslim woman fined for wearing burqa in northern Italy
# 05 May 2010 23:07 (UTC +04:00)
Baku – APA. Tunisian given on-the-spot fine of €500 under terrorism laws in Novara, run by anti-immigration Northern League, APA reports quoting “The Guardian”.
A Muslim woman in northern Italy has been given a €500 (£430) on-the-spot fine under anti-terrorism laws for wearing a face-covering burqa in public, according to reports.
In what is reported to be the first such case amid proposals for sanctions against traditional Islamic dress in a series of European countries, the 26-year-old Tunisian woman was stopped by police in the city of Novara, a stronghold of the anti-immigration Northern League.
The woman was wearing a full-length burqa with a niqab-type veil covering all her face apart from her eyes. She and her husband, both legal residents, were en route to Friday prayers when they were stopped by police for an identity check. Some reports said the pair were inside a post office at the time, while others said they were standing near it.
The husband was able to produce papers for the couple, but he refused to allow the male officers to see his wife’s unveiled face to confirm her identity. This was done when a female officer was called to the scene.
Although there was no problem with the couple’s status, the woman was fined €500 under a municipal ordinance introduced in January that bans clothing preventing easy identification of the wearer in public buildings.
The measure was introduced by Novara’s Northern League mayor, Massimo Giordano, Italy’s Ansa news agency reported. It is based on a national anti-terrorism law passed in 1975 which was intended to prevent the wearing of masks or motorcycle helmets.
Some police spot checks were specifically aimed at stopping Muslim women from wearing face-covering garments, the town’s police chief, Paolo Cortese, told Ansa.
"Unfortunately it is apparently not yet clear to everyone that clothes preventing the wearer’s identification can be tolerated at home but not in public places, in schools, on buses or in post offices," he said. "There are still some people that refuse to understand that our community in Novara does not accept and does not want people going around wearing the burqa."
According to the news agency, two other municipalities in northern Italy have issued anti-burqa rules based on the 1975 law. The AFP news agency quoted police as saying they believed it was the first time a fine had been imposed.
The woman is permitted to appeal against the fine.
About one in 12 of Novara’s 100,000-strong population are immigrants. Very few Muslim woman in the town generally wear a niqab or burqa, according to police.
Last week, Belgium’s parliament voted to ban face-covering Islamic garments for women. France is considering similar legislation.