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Muslim women harassed at northern Italian beach for wearing modest clothing

Muslim women have been prevented from bathing with clothes on in northern Italy
Muslim women have been prevented from bathing with clothes on in northern Italy Copyright GIOVANNI ISOLINO / AFP
Copyright GIOVANNI ISOLINO / AFP
By Savin Mattozzi
Published on
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A group of Muslim women wearing modest beach wear were harassed by a group of women in northern Italy claiming that they can’t go in the water with their clothing.

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A group of Muslim women were about to enter the water at a beach in the northern Italian city of Trieste when women behind them started berating them about their clothing, claiming that they aren’t allowed to go into the water with clothes on.

According to Italian media, a group of women started shouting “you can’t go in the water dressed like that” and prevented them from entering the water.

Other beachgoers defended the Muslim women, stating that they have a constitutional right to dress as they please; others backed the actions of the women harassing them claiming that what the women were doing wasn’t “hygienic.”

Beach security had to be called to calm the situation and the owner of the beach eventually intervened. It was not clear if the women left on their own accord or were made to leave.

This incident comes on the heels of a similar controversy earlier this summer.

The right-wing mayor of the small town of Monfalcone in Friuli-Venezia Giulia wrote a letter to the Muslim community saying the territory shouldn’t accept the “Islamization” of their customs and to respect the region’s rules on beachwear.

Attempts to ban head coverings in northern Italy

The Italian constitution guarantees full freedom to its citizens but several governments, largely in the north of the country, have attempted to ban various types of head coverings over the years.

In 2006, the Regional Administrative Tribunal of Friuli-Venezia Giulia ruled that the mayor of Trieste could not ban head coverings for security reasons under the 152/1975 because it violated people’s religious freedoms.

The 152/1975 anti-terrorism law states that people cannot wear masks or motorcycle helmets in public to evade identification. This law has been cited multiple times as cause for banning religious head and face coverings in the northern regions of Friuli-Venezia Giulia and Lombardy, whose regional and local governments have historically been controlled by either the right-wing Forza Italia party or the far-right Lega party.

In 2019, the same two regions of Lombardy and Friuli-Venezia Giulia passed partial bans on face coverings in public buildings like hospitals and administrative offices, citing ‘security reasons’ - a measure that had been in place in the northern region of Veneto since 2017.

Head and face covering bans across Europe

France was the first European country to ban the burqa and niqab in public places in 2010. 

Following in France’s footsteps, Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Denmark, some regions of Spain and in certain places in the Netherlands have also instituted bans or partial bans on face and head coverings.

In 2021, the European Court of Justice ruled that people who work with the public who refuse to remove their hijab or other religious or ideological clothing could be fired from their job in order to present a “neutral image towards customers or to prevent social disputes.”

Rights groups have criticized the ruling, saying that it unjustly targets Muslim women and the same rules are not as often applied to the Sikh turban for men or the Jewish kippah.

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