It is one thing to walk around in a shroud in a society governed by Sharia, where a woman is a perpetual minor and always under the control of a male guardian. In a free and open society, full participation requires being identifiable as an individual and not merely in relation to another. To pick and choose one’s responsibilities in society is not to participate in it fully, and goes against the principles of equal rights and duties for men and women, and for Muslims and non-Muslims.
“Now Italy is set to join Belgium and France in banning the burkha in public,” by Nick Pisa for the Daily Mail, August 2 (thanks to all who sent this in):
Italy is set to be the next European Union to introduce a burkha ban after parliament announced today it would debate legislation after the summer recess.
France and Belgium already have bans in place and the proposal has the backing of prime minister Silvio Berlusconi’s ruling centre right coalition.
Italy’s Constitutional Affairs Committee said that the bill which was initially suggested by the anti-immigration Northern League would be debated following the summer recess in September.
Berlusconi’s has a healthy majority in both the upper and lower houses of the Italian parliament and a ban is highly likely to go through when it comes to an eventual vote.
In France the ban became law earlier this year and after it was initially announced Al Qaeda terrorists vowed revenge.
Italy has more than one million Muslims but it is rare to see women wearing the full burkha.
The draft law, which makes no mention of religion, would also ban the niqab, which covers the bottom part of the face only, and other head-covering garments “˜of ethnic origin”.
Committee members agreed to the proposal going before the house after a vote which was opposed by the opposition Democratic Left – with other opposition parties abstaining.
The penalty being considered for offenders will be a fine of between 150 and 300 euros or alternatively some kind of community service “˜aimed at encouraging integration”.
Officials said that the legislation would also take into account people who “˜force someone to wear a burkha or face veil using either physical or psychological violence”.
This offence would be punished more severely with a year in prison and a 30,000-euro fine.
There have been incidents, especially in northern Italian cities such as Milan and Verona, where women wearing it have been asked to remove at least the face veil.
The Northern League’s proposal aims at amending a 1975 law, introduced amid concern over domestic terrorism, which bans anyone wearing anything which makes their identification impossible.
The only exceptions are for ‘justified cause’ – which until now has been interpreted to include religious reasons in court rulings against local bans on the burkha.
There have also been isolated cases where town councils – mainly in northern Italy where the Northern League is stronger – have introduced bylaws banning face veils.
Last year Amel Marmouri, 26, was stopped by carabinieri officers in a spot check outside a post office in Novara in northern Italy and given a 500 euro (Â£431) fine for wearing clothing which made her “˜not immediately identifiable”.
Suad Sbai, a female MP of Muslim origin with Berlusconi’s People of Freedom party said: “This is a decisive push for a measure promoting freedom and civilised values.
“˜We won’t stop, on the road towards the liberation of women who are segregated and without rights.”
Is Suad Sbai an Islamophobe?
A recent survey found that 73 per cent of Italians thought Islamic face coverings should not be worn in public, with a third saying they felt such veils were a degrading practice imposed on women by others.
There are no estimates of how many women wear the face veil in Italy, where Islam is the second-largest religion after Catholicism with around 1.2 million faithful.