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Wednesday, 5 May 2010

Italian police fine Muslim woman for wearing veil

A 26-year-old Tunisian Muslim woman has been fined for wearing a veil while walking to a mosque in northern Italy.

Police in the Piedmontese city of Novara, a stronghold of the anti-immigration Northern League, stopped the woman on Friday while she was walking with her husband to prayers wearing a black niqab, which covers the wearer's face but leaves the eyes exposed.
Police handed her a €500 (£430) fine under a bylaw introduced in January by the mayor that bans the wearing in public of clothing that prevents identification by police.

"We just enforced a local law that stops people from covering their faces near sensitive places such as schools, hospitals or post offices," Inspector Leonardo Borghesani said. "We understand the fine is hefty, but she can appeal."
The Northern League, a coalition ally of Italy's conservative prime minister, Silvio Berlusconi, is pushing for legislation to outlaw face-covering Islamic garments in public across Italy.

Such a move would follow in the footsteps of Belgium and France, where similar laws are expected to come into force over the next few months.
Promoters of the bans say the veils go against public security and deny the dignity of women.

Initiatives towards a full veil ban have sparked protests from Muslim leaders in Europe, who resent laws that could lead to discrimination against them.
The woman's husband defended the Islamic tradition. "I respect the Italian law. I have been living here for 10 years," he told Corriere della Sera. "But Amel can't be seen by other men."

The Northern League mayor of Novara said face-covering veils demeaned women. "We cannot accept cultures that destroy women's dignity," Massimo Giordano said in a statement.
The controversy came a day after Belgium's lower house of parliament gave initial approval to legislation that include fines of €15-25 and up to seven days in jail for those wearing a full facial veil.

The Northern League has recently lodged a draft bill, which could be amended in parliament, reflecting the Belgian proposal, but its version could lead to heftier fines of between €250 and €500.

"Our law intends to favour people's integration with the hosting country's culture, not segregation," said the Northern League's Paolo Grimoldi, who drafted the bill.

BBC News