The 26-year-old Tunisian woman was walking in a street in the northwestern city of Novara on Monday when she was stopped by a patrol, local police said.
“City police ticketed her last night and she will have to pay a 500-euro fine,” said Novara municipal police official Mauro Franzinelli. “As far as I know, this is a first in Italy.”
Representatives of the Islamic community in Italy warned that the issue was a delicate one, but agreed that police in Novara were simply following the rules and said the issue was not a religious one.
“We have to tread carefully here,” said Mario Scialoja of the Italian section of the Muslim World League, adding that “there is no doubt that according to Italian law face veils are prohibited, except during times like carnival.”
“The real needs of Muslims are those of being able to practise their religion, not to cover up their wives or sisters or daughters,” said Yahya Pallavicini, vice-president of Italy’s Islamic Religious Community organization.
“There is a rule and it was applied,” said Pallavicini, adding that “the face veil is not a religious symbol.”
The question of whether to ban the face veil is a topic that has divided the Italian government. The Northern League has proposed a law that would make wearing a niqab punishable by a $2,660 fine, but the bill has never been debated.
While there is no specific legislation about the niqab, covering the face in public – even with a motorcycle helmet – has been outlawed in Italy since 1975. Cities controlled by the Northern League have used this law in the past to ban Islamic veils.