Bergamo, 30 April (AKI) – Muslim women in the northern Italian province of Bergamo now have private access to a local swimming pool where they can swim freely without traditional clothing. Men are not permitted to swim at the Siloe pool when the women remove their veils, or burquas, at designated times each week, according to the Italian daily, Corriere della Sera.Maida Ziaradi, an Iranian who has lived in Italy for 17 years spearheaded the move and said many Muslim women from Tunisia, Morocco, Iran and Egypt as well as Italians can take advantage of it. The pool is owned by the diocese of Bergamo and the arrangement with the Muslim women is seen as a form of ecumenical respect for the Koran.
“At the beginning several (women) were hesitant and fearful,” Ziaradi said.”One had never swum before, others made a remarkable effort exposing their legs, one was terrified of the water and now doesn’t miss a lesson.”
Italy is not the first country to introduce designated swimming for Muslim women. In Germany the burqua can be worn in some public swimming pools, while in Australia some public pools have specific timetables for Muslim women.
Mecca Laalaa, a 22 year-old Australian is the first Muslim woman to become a volunteer surf life saver, wearing a specially designed costume or ‘burkini’.The burkini that completely covers the body and head, leaving the face exposed.