Date: 25 Apr 2007


Italy asks Muslim groups to join 'values charter'

April 24, 2007

ROME --  Italy's interior ministry has published a "values charter" for religious minorities that promotes integration while shunning polygamy and the wearing of face-concealing veils. 

The charter, presented late Monday by Interior Minister Giuliano Amato, enshrines "the right to religious freedom and equality between man and woman," according to the ministry's Web site. 

The charter advocates the "monogamous family and wants to prevent women from experiencing humiliation and polygamy," said Carlo Cardia, the head of the committee that drafted the accord, according to the ANSA news agency. 

The seven-page document refers to European values and those of the Italian constitution, and condemns terrorism, anti-Semitism, and xenophobia. 

Regarding the veil, it says that while "no restrictions on clothing exist in Italy ... [veils that] cover the face are not acceptable because they prevent the recognition of the person and are an obstacle for establishing relationships with others." 

Amato said the document would serve as a guide for relations between the ministry and Italy's various religious communities, and should help "consolidate Italian Islam." 

The non-binding charter "cannot be imposed on anyone," Amato said, adding that it was just the start of a process. 

More than a million Muslims make up the second-largest religious community in Italy, after Roman Catholicism. 

The largest Muslim organization, UCOII, was critical of the charter even though it took part in its drafting. 

"The veil has never been humiliating to women," said UCOII president Mohamed Nour Dachan, adding that he felt the charter should mention "the positive role of Islam in the history of Europe."