This week, a parliamentary commission in Italy approved a draft law that would ban women from wearing burqas, niqabs or any other face-covering veil or garment.
The law, sponsored by Souad Sbai, a Moroccan-born member of Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi’s conservative party, would issue a fine of 300 euro to women found wearing burqas or other types of veils in public. Those who force women to wear the veils would receive harsher fines (30,000 euro) and up to 12 months in jail. The bill would expand upon an existing Italian law that bans people from wearing masks or other items that cover their faces in public for security reasons.
If Italy ultimately approves the ban, it would follow in the footsteps of France, Belgium and Barcelona, which all passed similar bans in recent years.
Sbai spoke briefly with the Associated Press:
“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,” 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.’”
Opponents of the bill have argued that it infringes on religious expression and individual liberty. Moreover, many observers see the bill as another manifestation of increasing anti-Muslim sentiment throughout Europe — a disturbing trend that was highlighted by Anders Behring Breivik’s recent rampage in Norway. The Italian parliament will formally vote on the bill after returning from summer recess.