While France implements its ban on the wearing of the hijab in schools, an Italian Mayor in the North of the country has fined an Italian Muslim woman, twice, for leaving her house wearing the Burqa [A veil that covers the face and entire head but with a place cut out for the eyes].
Cristian Tolettini, the newly elected Mayor of Drezzo(Population 994), from the Lega Nord party of Umberto Bossi, had already previously tried to ban the wearing of the veil after his election in May, introducing a public order that was immediately annulled, due largely to a public outcry, by the prefecture of Como. Notwithstanding this minor setback, Tolettini announced the fining of local woman Sabrina Varroni for violation of article 85 of the Royal decree 773 from 1931, which precludes any type of mask, that may prevent identification by the authorities.
It should be noted at this point that Italy is increasingly paranoid about the possibility of a terrorist attack, and as such some legitimate fears have been voiced in relation to the wearing of the Burqa in public areas. Tolettini, in an interview with Portale Padano said that “this measure was required, in a delicate time such as ours, threatened as it is by terrorism, to prevent evil minded individuals from using this loophole, to launch an attack”
The idea that Mr Tolettini is acting out of concerns for public safety though is somewhat undermined when one takes into account the circumstances of the issuing of the fines. The first was issued while Ms Varroni waited outside her daughter’s school. When requested to take off the Burqa, to identify herself, Ms Varroni refused but did find an employee of the Commune who confirmed her identity, to no avail. La Stampa quotes Ms Varroni’s lawyer as having said “my client has always been prepared to show her face to the authorities, as long as it is to a woman, as required by her religion”.
After the first fine, Ms Varroni went to the Mayor to protest, along with her lawyer, and was told by Tolettini that everytime she went out of her house in the Burqa she could expect a fine.
Mr Tolettini, described by la Repubblica as “young and ambitious”, is keen to make his mark, and has now managed to put the troubling issue of the veil on the agenda, at what could hardly be a less opportune time. Italy’s growing Islamic community will be waiting to see the implications of the situation. If a fine is valid in a town like Drezzo, then surely it’s even more valid in larger more anonymous communities. Will women who wear the Burqa be faced with the choice of staying at home, paying a fine each time they go outdoors, or be forced to violate what they see as a religious duty?
The law is the law though, even if, as in this case, it’s a law dating back to when Italy had a King and a fascist government. Support, of a kind has been given to the action by the secretary of the Islamic community group Coreis, Ilhamm Allah Chiara Ferrero, who according to La Republica said that the Koran does not oblige Women to wear the Burqa. The association of Muslim Women also came out and said “if there’s a law, it should be respected”.
The Lega Nord, Tolettini’s party, bolstered by what they see as public support, have announced that they intend to collect signatures for a petition to introduce Tolettini’s scrapped local legislation, outlawing outright the wearing of the Burqa or Chador, in Milan. They’ve also stated their intent to bring this legislation to the national parliament.
This Monkey is against the wearing of the Burqa on principle (if the sight of a woman’s body inflames lust, let the men be blindfolded), but it seems strangely like the same side of the coin to enforce the wearing of the veil, or to enforce the non-wearing of the veil. It’s hard to argue that either course of action respects the rights of individual women.