May 4th, 2010
10:39 AM ET

Italy fines woman for face-covering veil

A woman in Italy has been fined 500 euros ($653) for wearing a veil that covered a large part of her face, in violation of a local ordinance, an official in Novara, Italy, said Tuesday.

The woman, a native of Tunisia who lives in northeastern Italy, was wearing a niqab, a veil favored by ultra-religious Muslim women that covers the whole face but leaves an opening for the eyes. A police officer asked her to identify herself but she and her husband declined to remove the niqab, said Mauro Frazinelli, a city official in Novara.

The city has an ordinance preventing people from wearing clothes that cover the face and full body. The fine marked the first time the ordinance was enforced, Frazinelli said.

The incident happened Saturday when the woman, who was not named, was standing in line outside a post office with her husband, also a Tunisian native, Frazinelli said.

When the couple refused to remove the niqab, the policeman called over a female officer, who was allowed to see the woman's face and verify her identity, Frazinelli said.

The woman was fined 500 euros Monday, he said.

Both the husband and wife are legal immigrants and had proper documentation, he said. The husband, 36, is a construction worker and the wife is in her 20s, he said.

Under a 1975 national anti-terrorism law, Italy prohibits the covering of one's face in public places.

In January of this year, Novara Mayor Massimo Giordano and the city council passed an ordinance prohibiting the wearing of clothes that fully hide the face of either men or women. The ordinance does not specifically name traditional Muslim garments such as the niqab or the burqa - which completely covers the face and body - nor does it mention Islam.

The ordinance applies only to the city of Novara, which has a population of about 100,000, out of which 8 percent are immigrants. Franzinelli said he estimates that about 4,000 to 5,000 Muslims live in Novara, and that most female Muslims either wear a veil, which covers the hair, or no head covering.

It is rare, he said, to see a woman wearing a niqab or burqa.

The mayor was prompted to push the ordinance after he saw children become frightened when a woman wearing a burqa went to their elementary school, Franzinelli said.

Giordano said of the ordinance, "It is the only way to favor integration."

Belgium's chamber of deputies last week passed a measure banning face coverings for women, which must still be approved by the senate and king before becoming law. France is also mulling legislation that would ban face and head coverings for women.

- CNN's Hada Messia contributed to this report.

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soundoff (23 Responses)
  1. Curious

    I wonder whether such legislation will actually stop such women from wearing their face veils, or merely force them to stay home and never leave the house.

    September 5, 2010 at 9:30 pm | Report abuse |
    • Ford

      Good point.

      October 7, 2010 at 1:50 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Marc

    Wait a minute everyone. We have no idea how ugly this woman may or may not be. Perhaps we shouldn't jump to conclusions here.

    October 7, 2010 at 1:58 pm | Report abuse |
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