Italy’s wealthiest region has just banned women from wearing burqas and niqabs in hospitals or government buildings.
The new law has been brought in the wake of ‘serious terror attacks’ in Europe in recent months, according to local officials in Lombardy.
Announcing the new rules prohibiting the Islamic veils, Simona Bordonali, head of security in the region, told Il Fatto Quotidiano: ‘Whoever wants to enter a hospital in Lombardy must be recognisable and present themselves uncovered… The burqa [and the] niqab are therefore banned.’
A burqa is a full top-to-toe covering, while the niqab is a full veil which leaves only the eyes visible.
The move has been condemned by religious leaders for spreading hate and division in a time of growing Islamophobia across Europe.
‘For me the burqa and niqab aren’t anything to do with Islam: they are merely cultures that belong to certain traditions and regions of the Muslim world,’ Mouelhi Mohsen, a Milan-based Imam, told The Local.
‘Either way, people shouldn’t be forced not to wear an item of clothing by anyone. These kinds of policies just help spread fear and ignorance.’
The ban has also been strongly rejected by the rest of Italy.
Andrea Orlando, Italy’s justice minister, said: ‘Right now the last thing we need is to wave symbols about and make propaganda – a domain in which the Islamist extremists are unbeatable.’
Governors of other Italian regions also made clear to Il Fatto Quotidiano that they would not be following suit.
‘Burqa bans’ in Europe
France was the first European country to ban niqabs and burqas, in 2010 – a move that has been widely condemned as Islamophobic and saw the government taken to the ECHR last year.
And in November, the Swiss state of Ticino passed a ban carrying a £6,500 fine on women wearing burqas in public.
The Netherlands and Belgium also have burqa bans in place.
This isn’t the first legislation specific to Muslims that Lombardy has passed.
The region introduced a law in January effectively preventing new mosques being built, and allowing heavy surveillance of existing Islamic places of worship.