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Last Updated: Wednesday, 24 March, 2004, 13:48 GMT
Italian minister joins veil row
Pupils at a school in France
Ms Mouayche was told children might be scared of her headscarf
Italy's interior minister has come out in support of a Moroccan trainee teacher who was denied a job because she wore a headscarf.

"I want the officials at the nursery school realise their mistake and to rectify it," Giuseppe Pisanu said.

School officials in the northern town of Samone banned Fatima Mouayche, 40, saying her veil "might scare children".

She expressed her surprise, saying she had never faced such criticism since she settled in Italy eight years ago.

She argued her headscarf was just an excuse for the school to exclude Muslims.

The Islamic headscarf... is an innocuous symbol of a cultural and religious identity which deserves all our respect
Giuseppe Pisanu,
Interior Minister
Officials at the nursery deny the decision has anything to do with Islam.

Interior Minister Giuseppe Pisanu, from Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi's Forza Italia Party, insisted they reverse the decision.

"The Islamic headscarf - worn in a dignified, unostentatious way - is an innocuous symbol of a cultural and religious identity which deserves all our respect," Mr Pisanu said.

Italy's La Repubblica newspaper said Mr Pisanu praised Ms Mouayche's reaction to the dismissal.

"The civilized composure of this lady shows how unfair the protests and the subsequent decisions preventing her from doing her teacher training are," he was quoted as saying.

Disagreements

Ms Mouayche, a divorced mother of two, had been assigned to the job at the private school after completing a course for nursery teachers.

Italian media reported that opposition Greens supported Mr Pisanu's view, but an official from their coalition partners, the anti-immigration Northern League, disagreed.

"We are duty-bound to defend the right to bring our children up in accordance with our traditions," the party's social policy spokeswoman, Francesca Martini, was quoted in La Repubblica as saying.

"In Italy, unfortunately, we are often helpless spectators as the immigrant population make real efforts to impose their values - and we cannot accept this."

An estimated 800,000 Muslims live in Italy.


SEE ALSO:
Italian school bans Muslim woman
23 Mar 04  |  Europe
Storm over Italy crucifix ruling
26 Oct 03  |  Europe
Headscarves: contentious cloths
26 Sep 03  |  Europe
German state backs headscarf ban
04 Feb 04  |  Europe


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