An Italian museum that barred a Muslim tourist because she was wearing a niqab which covered her face has introduced a “veil room” so visitors can be identified.
By Nick Pisa in Rome
Last Updated: 8:37PM BST 01 Sep 2008
The woman, whose nationality was not disclosed, was with her husband and daughter when she was stopped by a security guard from entering Venice’s Ca’Rezzonico museum.
He told her that for “security reasons” she could not be allowed in as the niqab exposed only her eyes and Italian law forbids the wearing of face-covering masks or hoods in public because of terrorism fears.
As a result of the outcry that followed the incident, Adriana Augusti, deputy superintendent of Venice Museums, has introduced veil rooms in Ca’Rezzonico as well as the Accademia and Oriental Art Galleries and the Archaeological Museum.
Veiled Muslim visitors are asked to remove their headdress in the presence of a female security guard before then being allowed to enter the gallery or museum.
Ms Augusti dismissed suggestions that the rooms were discriminatory and said: “It is all a question of security. I have given the go ahead following what happened at Ca’Rezzonico.
“It is simply a question of informing women that in Italy you cannot walk around in public with your face veiled – in these reserved rooms they are identified by a woman guard and then allowed in.
“We have had no problems in the two days we have started this policy. Two women in burqas with their husbands and children waited patiently outside while their families went in because they knew they would have to take their veils off.”
Nicola Spinosa, superintendent of Naples Museums, said: “If a Muslim visitor does not take off their veil to be identified then they are not allowed in.
“It is a state law – if I go into a mosque I have to take my shoes off so I don’t see the problem in asking for identification to be checked first before being allowed in.”
Cristina Acidini, superintendent of Florence’s vast array of galleries and museums, which include the Uffizi, Accademia and Pitti Palace, said: “To the best of my knowledge we have never had this problem.
“However if a veiled visitor did arrive and refused to take it off I would suggest a quiet room to check identity and if that was not accepted then I would call the authorities.”
Carlo Giovanardi, a spokesman for the centre Right government of Silvio Berlusconi, said Muslims living in Italy realised they had to adapt to Western rules of behaviour and many Muslim residents had said they supported the guard’s action.
Suad Sbai, president of Italy’s Moroccan Women Association, said: “The guard did absolutely right – it is the law of the land and has to be respected by everybody. He has my full support and solidarity.”