Several countries in Europe have debated the legality of “burqa bans” which prevent Muslims and other religious people from wearing traditional head coverings in certain places.
In Italy, a 40-year-old woman from Albania was recently fined for refusing to remove her burqa, which covered her entire body except her eyes.
The woman, who has not been identified, was reportedly trying to get into a council meeting in Pordenone, but when she was denied entry unless she removed her covering, police had to escort her from the building, according to the U.K. Express.
Her refusal to remove her burqa and refusal to leave the building landed he woman in court, where she was initially fined around $650 along with a four-month suspended jail sentence.
But she appealed, which resulted in the woman choosing between the jail sentence and a $28,500 fine for failing to identify herself. She chose the latter.
Prosecutor Federico Facchin cited Italian law, which forbids “the use of protective helmets, or any other means to stop the recognition of a person, in a public place or open to the public, without justification,” Express reported.
While this was the first conviction of its kind in Italy, other European countries have been struggling with the issue for a while.
For example, in France, the high court recently overturned rulings that had banned women from wearing “burkinis” on French beaches.
There have been legitimate arguments on both sides of the debate, with proponents of the anti-burqa laws citing safety concerns, particularly in light of recent terrorist attacks perpetrated by radical Islamists in major cities around the world.
On the other hand, the laws and rulings that ban religious coverings infringe upon individuals’ freedom of religion and freedom of speech – which might not be as respected in other nations as they are in the United States.
We haven’t had that particular legal issue in this country, but it may not be too far off. And when or if it does happen, we have to be careful to balance rights and concerns for everyone involved.