Italy today became the latest European government to announce it was considering introducing a law which would make wearing a burqa illegal.
MPs from the anti-immigration Northern League party, a member of Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi's ruling right wing coalition, have presented the proposal in a bill.
It comes just weeks after France also said that it was considering making the wearing of burqas by Muslim women illegal - a statement which prompted al Qaeda terrorists to vow revenge if it was banned.
Italy has more than one million Muslims but it is rare to see women wearing the full burqa.
There have been incidents, especially in northern cities such as Milan and Verona, where women wearing it have been asked to remove at least the face veil.
Last month centre-right politician Daniela Santanche was involved in clashes with Muslims after she attended an end of Ramadan festival and urged women to remove their burqas.
There has also been a backlash against the 'burkini', a bathing costume that is suitable for Islamic dress. Several Musilim women who have used swimming pools wearing burkinis in Italy have been asked to leave, with officials claiming the garments are 'unhygienic'.
The Northern League's proposal aims at amending a 1975 law, introduced amid concern over domestic terrorism, which bans anyone wearing anything which makes their identification impossible.
The only exceptions are for 'justified cause' - which until now has been interpreted to include religious reasons in court rulings against local bans on the burqa.
The Northern League also has the backing of Berlusconi's People of Freedom party. The League's Roberto Cota said: 'We are not racist and we have nothing against Muslims but the law must be equal for everyone.
'The aim of this bill is to clarify the 1975 law in a definitive way and allow the ban to be extended to garments worn for reasons of religious affiliation.'
MP Barbara Saltamartini, of the People of Freedom, said:'Banning the burqa can not be considered anti-Muslim because wearing it is not obligatory in Islam.
'The Imam of Al-Azhar University in Cairo, the highest authority in Sunni Islam, has just stated unequivocally that Muslim women have the right to their own identity and that the burqa is not part of Muslim tradition.
'This position is of extreme importance not only because it dismantles false myths perpetrated by a patriarchal fundamentalism, but also because it shows how the dignity of a women is compatible with the symbols and values of Islam.
'It would be absurd now if countries like Egypt ban this instrument of submission and we continue to avoid dealing with the question.'
Centre left opposition MPs criticised the proposal and said it was 'unconstitutional because it infringes on religious freedom and justifying it because of law and order is totally out of place.'
Source: Daily Mail Online