Lifestyle & Belief

Italy passes draft law to ban burqa


Kenza Drider, a young woman from the southern city of Avignon who has become the media symbol of France's tiny community of niqab wearers, speaks to the press during an unauthorized protest in front of Notre Dame cathedral against France's new ban on wearing full-face veils in public, on April 11, 2011 in Paris. Two women in niqabs were arrested.


Bertrand Guay

An Italian parliamentary commission has approved a draft law banning women from wearing veils that cover their faces in public, AFP reports.

The proposed law, which has the backing of Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi's central-right coalition, would prohibit women from wearing a burqa, niqab or any other garb that covers the face, The Telegraph reports.

Already in Italy, it is an offense to wear face-covering items such as masks in public places.

Anyone who forces a woman to wear a veil in public which covers their face could be jailed for up to one year and women who violate the law could also be fined $213-$426 and have to perform community service, BBC reports.

Italy, an overwhelmingly Catholic country with a small Muslim minority, is the latest European country to act against the burqa after France and Belgium banned the wearing of burqa-style Islamic dress in public, as has a city in Spain. The Belgium law cited security concerns.

The Italian law was sponsored by Souad Sbai, a Moroccan-born member of Premier Silvio Berlusconi's conservative Freedom People party, who said she wanted to help Islamic women better integrate into Italian society, The Telegraph reports.

"Five years ago, no one wore the burqa (in Italy). Today, there is always more. We have to help women get out of this segregation ... to get out of this submission," Ms Sbai said in a telephone interview.

"I want to speak for those who don't have a voice, who don't have the strength to yell and say, 'I am not doing well.'"