Italy's top court has said that migrants must "adapt" to Western values, in a controversial ruling against an Indian Sikh who was seeking exemption from the law so that he could carry the ceremonial "kirpan" knife.
The decision by the Court of Cassation, issued Monday and published online a day later, has sparked a nationwide debate in a country with a rapidly rising foreign-born population, and under pressure from record boat migrant arrivals from Libya.
"It is essential for a migrant to adapt his own values to the values of the Western world, where he has freely decided to integrate, and to check in advance whether his behaviour is compatible" with local norms, the Cassation wrote.
The judgement turned down an appeal against a 2,000-euro ($2,200) fine the plaintiff was issued after he refused to hand over his kirpan, which Sikhs see as a religious symbol, rather than a weapon. Coming from the supreme court, it sets an important legal precedent.
The head of the anti-migrant Northern League, Matteo Salvini, welcomed the decision. "If the League says it, it is racism, but even in this case we were right: you either integrate or you go back home!!!" he wrote on Facebook.
According to Cesare Mirabelli, a former president of the Court of Cassation, judges were right to reject the appeal out of public safety grounds, but entered into "difficult territory" by citing Western values in their motivations.
Italy is home to Europe's second-largest Sikh community, numbering about 60,000-70,000. Their religion also prescribes the wearing of turbans, which often raises other legal problems, for example with requirements to wear motorcycle helmets.
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