Italian politician faces jail for anti-burqa protest

A Milan prosecutor has requested a one-month prison sentence and €100 fine for Daniela Santanchè, a right-wing politician and ex-leader of the Movement for Italy party, now a faction of Silvio Berlusconi's People of Freedom party, for organizing an anti-burqa protest in 2009 without permission.

Italian politician faces jail for anti-burqa protest
Daniela Santanchè (R) is a staunch supporter of Italy's former prime minister, Silvio Berlusconi. Photo: Hytok/Flickr

Santanchè protested against the burqa as 3,000 Muslims gathered to celebrate the end of Ramadan at Milan’s La Fabbrica del Vapore, a cultural centre, in September 2009.

Santanchè, along with 12 other activists, reportedly asked women entering the building to “uncover their face”. She also called on Italian police to apply a law that has been in place since the 1970s forbidding any dress that hides a person’s face.

The protest provoked anger among the Muslim community, ending with an Egyptian man, Ahmed El Badry, assaulting Santanchè. Despite denials of the attack by witnesses, El Badry was fined €2,000 on Monday.

In 2006, Santanchè clashed with the imam of a mosque near Milan, Ali Abu Shwaima, after saying “the veil isn’t a religious symbol and it isn’t prescribed by the Koran”. She claimed Muslim women forced to wear the veil had asked her to speak out.

Santanché, now a vocal MP for Berlusconi's centre-right party, spoke out in support of Italy's former prime minister earlier this year when he was not among the four people selected as an honorary senator for life. 

"[I am] deeply sorry for the one person who should have been named a senator for life and has not been  that is, Silvio Berlusconi. He would have been the best and the person who is most qualified and most deserving," she said.

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