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Last Updated: Tuesday, 14 November 2006, 21:51 GMT
Vatican enters Muslim veil debate
By David Willey
BBC News, Rome

Veiled Muslim woman (file image)
Italy has a law against wearing masks in public
A senior Vatican cardinal has expressed concern over the use of some Muslim veils by Islamic immigrants in Europe.

This is the first time that the Vatican has joined in the Europe-wide debate on how women who insist on wearing the veil affect the integration of Muslims.

Cardinal Renato Martino said immigrants must respect the traditions, culture and religion of the nations they go to.

They ought to abide by local laws banning the wearing of certain types of Muslim veils, he added.

"It seems elementary to me and it is quite right that the authorities demand it," said Cardinal Martino, who heads the Vatican department dealing with migration issues.

He was speaking at a news conference launching a papal statement calling for laws which encourage the better integration of migrants.

Here in Italy, a law was passed during the attacks of the Red Brigades urban guerrillas three decades ago which still makes it an offence to cover your face in public if your identity is challenged by a policeman.

At that time there were very few Muslim women immigrants in Italy.

Common values

Another Vatican expert on immigration, Archbishop Agostino Marchetto, said it was important in the course of dialogue with Muslims to make them understand that the consequences of some of their religious traditions might not be positive in the societies in which they now find themselves.

The Italian government is trying to draw up what it calls a Charter of Common Values to get local Muslim leaders to help integrate Italy's fast-growing population. But it is hard going.

At one recent meeting, a radical Muslim delegate proposed separate charters for men and for women, and favoured the death penalty.

Equal rights for men and women are guaranteed, and the death penalty is banned, under the Italian constitution.

Italy government seeks veil ban
07 Nov 06 |  Europe
Why Muslim women wear the veil
05 Oct 06 |  Middle East
The Islamic veil across Europe
06 Oct 06 |  Europe
Italian minister joins veil row
24 Mar 04 |  Europe

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