The Italian Almanac


The Burqa Ban

The right-wing mayor of a small town in the Marche region has announced plans to ban Muslim women from wearing the burqa. Fermignano Mayor Giorgio Cancellieri, whose Northern League party has been accused of being anti-immigrant, said he plans to introduce the measure after seeing several of his constituents dressed in the Islamic garment. The burqa covers the entire head and body of the woman, leaving only a small grill of cloth in the area of the eyes to allow the wearer to see. A 1975 law, introduced amid concern over homegrown terrorism forbids Italians from appearing in public wearing anything which covers their faces, but whether the law can be applied to religious headgear has been debated in the past.

``I almost couldn`t believe it when I found out that four or five Muslim women were going around the town, and even my own neighbourhood, with a full veil,`` said Cancellieri. ``It`s something from the Middle Ages, an outrageous oppression of women even if it is motivated by a religious faith: I felt a deep sense of anger and I decided to do something,`` he said.

Cancellieri said an initial ordinance he drew up that ``made specific reference to the burqa and Islamic head covering`` was rejected by the Pesaro prefecture, which represents the central government on a local level, because it could have been interpreted as xenophobic. The mayor then drew up a second ordinance that forbids the access of ``those wearing anything that covers the face, even if of a religious nature, making identification difficult`` to public places such as schools, banks and shops. This time the prefecture forwarded the new text to Interior Minister Roberto Maroni, who is also a Northern League member. Cancellieri said he was optimistic Maroni would give him the green light.