(AP) A Muslim woman walks in downtown Rome Wednesday, Aug. 3, 2011. An Italian parliamentary commission has approved a draft law banning women from wearing veils that cover their faces in public
The thing about Italy’s proposed law to ban women from wearing veils that cover their faces is that it’s not clear what difference it would make.
Just like in France or Belgium, which have introduced similar measures, Italy does not have a large population of women who wear the burqa or the niqab, which cover almost the entire body and face. “In my 20 years in Italy, I don’t think I’ve seen ten women who wear the veil,” says Izzeddin Elzir, head of the Union of Islamic Communities in Italy (UCOII), the country’s largest Muslim organization. According to Elzir, most Muslims in Italy subscribe to a school of Islam that doesn’t require women to keep their faces covered. “In summer, there are more, because there are lots of tourists [from Arabic countries],” he says. “But here in Italy, we see few cases.”(See pictures of Muslim modernity.)
The legislation, which was approved by a parliamentary commission on Tuesday, occupies a strange place in the Italian political spectrum, uniting the socially liberal left with the xenophobic right. (A similar measure was floated by the previous left-wing government.) If approved by parliament, it would close a religious exemption to previous legislation that prohibits anybody in Italy from donning garb that would make their identification impossible. The proposed law has the support of the Northern League, a populist political party that has built its electoral success by fanning fears in a country being changed rapidly by immigration.