French police fine Muslim driver for wearing burqa

A French Muslim woman has been fined for wearing a full-face veil while driving a car. Police in the western city of Nantes said the veil – which showed only her eyes – restricted her vision and could have caused an accident. The woman’s lawyer says they will appeal against the decision, which he described as a breach of human rights.

After stopping the 31-year-old woman – who has not been named – police asked her to raise her veil to confirm her identity, which she did. They then fined her 22 euros ($2), saying her clothing posed a “safety risk”. Her lawyer, Jean-Michel Pollono, said the woman’s field of vision was not obstructed and added that a veil was no different from a motorcycle helmet in terms of hindrance to vision. “Currently no law forbids the wearing of the niqab.” There is a developing story as to whether her husband is living in France legally and whether he has a polygamous marital arrangement.

Italy the UCOII’s turning point: “From now on, Imams have to speak Italian.”

Izzedin Elzir, the newly elected president of the Union of the Islamic Communities in Italy (UCOII), has stated that Italian language must be adopted by all the imams. The moderate leader that is also attentive to the interfaith dialogue wants to loosen the traditional tie of its association with the Muslim Brotherhood. He underlined some crucial points; such as the need for transparency and for greater integration by Muslims into Italian society. He also expressed his commitment to make the Italian language the common idiom for the plethora of Muslim communities. His goal is to attain an agreement with the Italian state, which entails funding for Islamic places of worship. He also articulated his position concerning other hot button issues: on the veil, for example, he stated that although he thinks the face should be uncovered, it would be wrong to regulate by law matters that infringe upon freedom of choice. Regarding the knowledge of the Italian constitution and language as the prerequisite for obtaining a resident permit, he claimed that such knowledge is fundamental. He went on to state, that it is important to avoid propaganda but rather cooperate with the institutions and employers to set up workable laws which are able to counteract clandestine practices. Finally, asked on the issue of crucifix in the schools, he highlighted the need for approaches that are inclusive of other cultures.

Proposed burqa ban in France ripples into Italy

After six months, the French parliamentary committee has released a 200-page report proposing an act banning the burqa and the niqab in public services and offices. However, the ban wouldn’t extend to all public spaces and it wouldn’t necessarily be a criminal offense.

The French government considers the burqa an offense to French national values. The strong French position expressed by President Sarkozy and the content of the parliamentary committee report, have ignited a political debate in Italy.

Mara Carfagna, the ministry for equal opportunities claims that the burqa is not welcome in our country and suggests a law banning this form of veiling in public spaces. In her opinion, indeed, the burqa is not a religious symbol but an abuse of power by men against women. The ban would be a crucial way to help young immigrant women to escape from ghettos where they are supposedly confined.

Franco Frattini, the Italian foreign minister doesn’t agree with a legal ban of the burqa, preferring to direct the argument towards a wider commitment to integration. The Lega Nord, instead, subscribes to the French position considering personal freedom to be balanced with the protection of security.

Differing opinions on the proposed ban exist from group to group. Four political initiatives link the burqa and the niqab to security: the Lega Nord, Souad Sbai (PDL), UDC and the PD (Demcratic Party), who proposes to allow religious, ethnic or cultural freedom in garment choice on the condition that faces remain uncovered. Of Muslim groups, Ahmad Giampier, president of Muslim Italian Intellectuals supports a ban, while Yunus Distefano, COREIS’ spokeman, wants to ensure Islam isn’t seen as a fundamentalist ideology. He believes the veil is a spiritual symbol but unfortunately, some misuse it. However., he feels this is an anomaly, and isn’t Islamic.