A 26-year-old Tunisian woman has been fined for wearing a face veil while walking to a mosque in northern Italy, adding to the growing debate on the integration of Muslim minorities in Europe.
The police in the city of Novara, a stronghold of Italy’s anti-immigration Northern League, stopped the woman on Friday while she was walking with her husband to prayers. The woman, who is Muslim, was wearing a black niqab that covered her face but left her eyes exposed.
In Germany, Interior Minister Thomas de Maizière said that talk of a ban on such face veils was “inappropriate and therefore unnecessary” after one house of Belgium’s Parliament voted last week to outlaw veils and France said it would start debating a possible ban soon.
The Italian police fined the Tunisian woman about $650 under a bylaw introduced in January by the mayor of Novara that bans clothing in public that prevents identification by the police.
“We just enforced a local law that stops people from covering their face near sensitive places like schools, hospitals or post offices,” Police Inspector Leonardo Borghesani said.
“We understand the fine is hefty, but she can appeal,” he said.
The Northern League, a coalition ally of conservative Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, is pushing for national legislation to outlaw face-covering Islamic garments in public.
Supporters of such bans say the veils negate the dignity of women. But Muslim leaders in Europe have protested against the bans as discriminatory.