The northern Italian region of Lombardy has passed regulations forbidding access into hospitals and public buildings to anyone wearing face-covering garments, such as the burqa and niqab; this is the first regional law to explicitly outlaw Islamic face coverings in Italy.
Lombardy Governor Roberto Maroni announced the new regulation for access to regional structures, prompted in particular by the Northern League after the November 13 jihadist attacks in Paris. The text makes reference to national legislation already in place, which prohibits people from going about in public dressed in a way that prevents facial recognition without a “justifiable motive.”
The secretary of the Lombard League, Paul Grima, said that current legislation is not respected or enforced, “as thousands of Muslim women go about undisturbed with their faces completely covered by the burqa or the niqab, making it impossible to identify them.”
The new regulation, which will take effect on January 1, 2016, authorizes personnel to stop people from entering public buildings if their faces are not clearly visible, and thus prohibits not only the burqa, but also helmets and other headgear.
The Lombard Regional Council voted in the amended legislation unanimously, which explicitly states that religious motives will no longer constitute a justifiable motive for covering one’s face. “Religious traditions or customs cannot represent just cause for an exemption according to article 5 of Law 152/1975 regarding the demands of security within regional buildings,” the regulations state.
“We have updated legislation and now those in charge of access will stop anyone trying to enter with their faces covered,” Maroni said.
Simona Bordonali, head of Security, Civil Protection and Immigration in Lombardy, said that “serious terror attacks” in recent weeks had led the region to beef up its security measures.
“Whoever wants to enter a hospital in Lombardy or regional offices must be recognizable and have an uncovered face,” she said. “The burqa and the niqab, as well as ski masks and full-face helmets, are therefore banned.”
In recent weeks, Italy has been praised for the effectiveness of its counterterrorism measures and put forward as a model for other European nations.
As part of its security, Italy routinely profiles suspects, deports those considered a danger to the state, and jails those inciting terrorist acts. It also benefits from decades of experience fighting organized mafia crime within its borders, which parallels the actions of terrorists in significant ways.
Follow Thomas D. Williams on Twitter @tdwilliamsrome.