Italy moved closer to banning Islamic face veils in the country when a parliamentary panel approved Tuesday a measure making illegal the wearing of burqas, niqabs and other ethnic face covers.
The House Constitutional Affairs committee approved the bill backed by Premier Silvio Berlusconi‘s People of Freedom party and the right wing Northern League party, sending it for voting before the full House in September.
Under the draft law, violators will be fined $213 to $426 or community service. Those who force others to wear burqas will be penalized severely with a $14,200 fine and one-year imprisonment.
Silvio Berlusconi. Image via Wikipedia
Proponents of the bill have cited security concerns for endorsing the proposed burqa ban. A social survey also indicates that most Italians do not approve of wearing face veils in public because it degrades women.
Muslim woman wearing a niqab in Yemen. Image via Wikipedia
Two Muslim women who wear full veils decided Friday to challenge the ban in the country\’s constitutional court, Belgian media reported.
“We consider the law as a disproportionate intrusion into fundamental rights such as the freedom of religion and expression,” Ines Wouters, the women’s lawyer, was quoted as saying in the newspaper La Libre.
“This measure is discriminatory,” Wouters said.
…The Council of Europe’s human rights commissioner, Thomas Hammarberg, criticised burqa and niqab bans this week, saying such measures threaten to exclude women rather than liberating them.
“In fact, the banning may run counter to European human rights standards, in particular the right to respect for one’s private life and personal identity,” he said.
“The way the dress of a small number of women has been portrayed as a key problem requiring urgent discussion and legislation is a sad capitulation to the prejudices of the xenophobes.”
If this Mr. Hammarberg would be assaulted by someone dressed in a burqa, I’m sure he would like to know who was the culprit. Oh, well, that surely would make him a dangerous xenophobe wanting to go on a murderous spree… 🙄
“I don’t care whether a person is wearing a motor cycle helmet, a burqa, niqab, face veil or anything else – the police should be allowed to require those people to make their identification clear,” he said.
“I have every respect for various religions and beliefs but when it comes to enforcing the law the police should be given adequate powers to make a clear identification.”
”I understand European governments that ban the use of the niqab [the veil that covers the whole of the face] or that want to introduce rules forbidding its use. The integral veil is unacceptable and is not even a religious precept”. These are the comments of the Kuwaiti female Sheikh Hussah Sabah Salem al-Sabah, who is currently in Milan for the launch of the ”Al Fann, the art of Islamic civilisation” exhibition, which is being held at Palazzo Reale until January 30.
”If a woman wants to cover her head with a hijab, she is free to do so. But the niqab is unacceptable. There is not a passage of the Koran in which it is written that a woman must cover her face,” the Sheikh told ANSAmed. It is, she says, ”religious fanaticism that has nothing to do with Islam”.
In response to a question on the sad story of Sakineh, the Iranian woman accused of killing her husband and sentenced to death by stoning, Sheikh al Sabah said that ”before being able to resolve a problem as big as stoning, we must remedy the issue of the veil”.
The wife of the Kuwaiti Prime Minister maintains that it is possible to ban the niqab by law. Indeed, it is the right thing to do. ”It is a question of national security. We must know who is behind the veil”. There then follows an equally important issue: communication between human beings. With a symbolic gesture, taking a sheet of paper and placing it in front of her face, Sheikh Hussah asks ”how can we communicate if in front of me there is a wall that separates us?”.
Syria has banned face-covering Islamic veils from the country’s universities. The surprise move comes as similar moves in Europe – including controversial calls in Britain for a ban on burkas – have sparked cries of discrimination against Muslims. The crackdown was ordered by the secular government in Damascus amid fears of increasing Islamic extremism among young Muslim students. Syria is not a Muslim country. An official at the ministry says the ban affects public and private universities and aims to protect the country’s secular identity.