Italy is set to become the next European country to ban the burka after a government report ruled in favour of the proposed legislation.
MPs from the anti-immigration Northern League party, a member of Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi’s ruling right wing coalition, have presented the proposal in a bill.
It comes just weeks after France banned the wearing of burkas and other forms of face veils – a decision which prompted al Qaeda terrorists to vow revenge.
An Interior Ministry report now being considered by the Constitutional Affairs Commission says that if introduced the law should make clear burkas and other face coverings were being banned not for ‘religious reasons but for security reasons.’
As part of their investigation the Interior Ministry heard from several leading Muslims on the use of the burka and several pointed out there was no mention of its use at all in the Koran.
Ejaz Ahmed, of the Italian Islam Committee said: ‘The use of the burka and the niqab does not have its origins in the Koran – in fact it is not even mentioned in the Koran.
‘The burka 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.
‘There is no connection between the burka 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 burkas.’
However others from the Islam Committee ruled that the burka was part of Muslim culture.
Ahmad Gianpiero Vincenzo said: ‘The government risks inflaming Islamophobia by introducing this law.
‘They think that by saying it is for public safety they are washing their hands of it but any ban of the burka will simply be exploited.’
The Interior Ministry report to the Commission said: ‘The law should consider public safety and consider that wearing such clothing prevents immediate recognition by the forces of law and order and, if necessary being described by witnesses.
‘Recognition of a person must be guaranteed especially in light of the risk from international terrorism.
‘The law should avoid any reference to Islam or religion in order so as not to fuel controversy.’
Italy has more than one million Muslims but it is rare to see women wearing the full burka.
There have been incidents, especially in northern cities such as Milan and Verona, where women wearing it have been asked to remove at least the face veil.
Technically it is illegal to be seen in public wearing anything that prevents immediate identification and there have been several cases in recent months of zealous officials fining burka wearing women.
Earlier this year Amel Marmouri, 36, was fined £430 for wearing a burka at her local post office in Novara and her husband Ben Salah Braim said he would keep her indoors rather than let her go out uncovered.
There has also been a backlash against the ‘burkini’, a bathing costume that is suitable for Islamic dress.
Several Muslim women who have used swimming pools wearing burkinis in Italy have been asked to leave, with officials claiming the garments are ‘unhygienic’.
The Northern League’s proposal aims at amending a 1975 law, introduced amid concern over domestic terrorism, which bans anyone wearing anything which makes their identification impossible.
The Constitutional Affairs Commission is expected to report back later in the autumn and the law is unlikely to go through parliament until next year at the earliest.