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Last Updated: Monday, 23 October 2006, 18:14 GMT 19:14 UK
Protection for Italy veil row MP
By Christian Fraser
BBC News, Rome

A Muslim woman wearing a burqa veil
Ms Santanche said the veil was 'not required in religion'
An Italian politician will be given police protection following comments she made about the Islamic veil on television.

The MP, Daniela Santanche, from the right wing National Alliance, said the veil was not required by the Koran.

She was labelled an infidel by an imam appearing on the same programme and there are now fears for her safety.

Daniela Santanche recently published a critical book on living conditions for Muslim women called Woman Denied.

She is known for her forthright comments.

'Ignorant talk'

On Friday she appeared on a chat show on Sky Italia for a heated debate which quickly spiralled out of control.

"A veil," she said, "is never a symbol of liberty and it is not required in religion".

There is a law which forbids - for reason of terrorism - people to go around with masks on
Daniela Santanche

"And in our country," she went on, "there is a law which forbids - for reason of terrorism - people to go around with masks on".

Her comments brought a furious response from the imam who appeared alongside her.

Ali Abu Shwaima, from a mosque near Milan, called her an infidel.

"I will not allow the ignorant to talk about Islam," he said. "The veil is an obligation required by God."

Ms Santanche has now been offered police protection for her own safety.

But she is not the only one who has expressed reservations about the wearing of the veil.

Last week Italian Prime Minister Romano Prodi said he was opposed to women covering their faces.

"We are not talking about the way people dress," he said, "but about whether or not they are hiding themselves".

There has also been support from Ms Santanche's political opponents.

The left-wing minister for equality, Barbara Pollastrini, said everyone was free to express their opinions.

"We are in a democratic country," she said. "Imam Shwaima must know that in our country, threats, intimidation and condemnations are not acceptable."

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