Italy Moves to Ban Burqas

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Italy is taking steps to become the second European country to ban women from wearing burqas.

The proposal by the Italian government would amend a 1975 law, which was introduced amid fears of home-grown terrorism.

Under the measure, people who cover their faces with anything preventing their identification by police could receive up to two years in jail along with substantial fines.

Italian officials stress that it would be approved for security reasons, not religious reasons. They claim burqas make it difficult to identify people.

France approved a similar ban last month.

As part of their investigation, the Italian Interior Ministry heard from several leading Muslims on the use of the burqa and several testified there was no mention of the clothing in the Koran.

Ejaz Ahmed of the Italian Islam Committee told the ministers that "the use of the burqa and the niqab does not have its origins in the Koran - in fact it is not even mentioned in the Koran."

"The burqa has nothing to do with religion and was being worn even before Islam was founded - it was worn by the Romans, Byzantines and Persians and wearing it is not a religious obligation," he added.

"There is no connection between the burqa and the niqab with the Islamic religion. The burqa should be banned to respect women's dignity and the safety of the public given that in Pakistan many suicide bombers have hidden devices under burqas," Ahmed recommended to the ministry.

Other Muslims on the committee said the Italian government risks inflaming Islamophobia by introducing the law.

Politcal analysts say the proposed legislation in unlikely to go to parliament until next year.

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