"I want the officials at the day care centre to account for their mistake and to rectify it," said Pisanu, a member of Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi's Forza Italia party.

"The Islamic veil, worn with dignity and without ostentation is an innocuous symbol of a cultural and religious identity which deserves all our respect," Pisanu said.
 
Pisanu's personal intervention came after Fatima Mouayche, 40, was dismissed from her job at a day care centre in the Samona suburb of Turin because school officials feared her headscarf might scare the children.
 
Cristina Ferrari, an official at the day care centre told newspapers on Tuesday that religion had nothing to do with the decision to dismiss Mouayche.

"The Islamic veil, worn with dignity and without ostentation is an innocuous symbol of a cultural and religious identity which deserves all our respect"

Giuseppe Pisanu,
Italian Interior Minister

One mother who uses the centre was quoted by La Repubblica daily as saying on Wednesday that the school was right to sack the Moroccan.

"Religion has nothing to do with the workplace and it must remain outside. The veil could frighten children," said the woman, who declined to be named.

Mouayche said that she had never encountered any criticism for wearing the headscarf since she settled in Italy eight years ago.

There are an estimated 800,000 Muslims in Italy.

French ban

Earlier this month, the French parliament passed a law banning the wearing of headscarves by Muslims in state schools.
   
The ban, which targets the hijab (headscarves) but also outlaws Jewish skullcaps and large Christian crosses, comes into effect in September.

"Religion has nothing to do with the workplace and it must remain outside. The veil could frighten children"

Mother of school pupil

The government hopes the law will uphold France's tradition of secularity - a strict separation of church and state that it argues promotes an ideal of French republicanism and brings together citizens from different backgrounds by filtering out religious differences.

French Muslims and others around the world have protested the passing of this law, saying it is discriminatory.

The head of the Party of France's Muslims, Muhammad Latreche, said the legislation would "institutionalise Islamophobia."

Belgium too is reportedly seeking to emulate France by planning to ban religious symbols from its own courts, schools and offices.