The decision by a northern Italian city official to allow Muslim women to wear the burqa has sparked consternation in the country, even though at least one minister supported the move.

We have already said several times, and we reiterate it now, that the use of the burqa is unacceptable,” said a spokesman for Interior Minister Giuliano Amato.

A 1975 law, introduced amid concern over homegrown terrorism in the country’s cities, forbids Italians from appearing in public wearing anything which covers their faces. Apart from this law, which appears to apply to the burqa, many politicians on both sides of parliament said the garment was also a humiliating imposition.

I am indignant. Covering up women’s faces is an offence to their dignity,” said Equal Opportunities Minister Barbara Pollastrini.