Minister urges fine for burka

Rome, Italy - Women wearing burkas in Italy should be reported to the police and fined, Silvio Berlusconi's justice minister said at the weekend. Roberto Castelli said the garment was at odds with an Italian law that forbids masks.

The burka is rare, though not unknown, in Italy. But commentators yesterday noted that the minister's ruling against masks could be applied to other garb more commonly worn by Muslim women, that leaves only the eyes visible.

Mr Castelli told a meeting in the northern town of Como: "No one may break the law."

He was referring to a decision by the local prefect to overturn fines imposed last year on an Italian convert to Islam from nearby Drezzo, who wears a burka. Two other women have been fined for wearing the garment elsewhere. Mr Castelli's remarks were condemned by leftwing parties. Marco Rizzo of the Communist party said they were "at the threshold of incitement to racial and religious hatred".