Italy gearing up to say “basta” to mosques

September 17, 2008

Ramadan prayers in Rome’s Grand Mosque, 5 Sept 2008/Chris HelgrenItaly may soon say “basta” (enough!) to new mosques. The far-right Northern League party, allies of centre-right Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, wants to limit the growth of Islam in the centre of world Catholicism by blocking the construction of mosques through strict new regulations. My feature on this — “Italy’s right to curb Islam with mosque law” — outlines the proposed legislation.

One thing that struck me while researching the story was how much work the author of the draft law, Andrea Gibelli, seems to have done preparing this law. He quoted the Koran in Arabic, cited the legal systems of various Arab countries and said he had read “200 books” on the subject.  He also gave a clue to some of the thinking behind the draft legislation when he told us that he had been helped in his understanding of Islam by friends from the Middle East. It turns out they were Lebanese Druze and Coptic Christians from Egypt, members of minorities whose opinions may be coloured by their long and not always harmonious relations with Muslims.

The Northern League does not mince words — for example, it once advised the use of gunboats to scare off would-be illegal immigrants. Roberto Calderoli, now a cabinet minister, once walked his pet pig on a proposed mosque site to defile the soil there and  wore a T-shirt with a Danish caricature of the Prophet Mohammad, triggering riots in Libya. Gibelli’s bottom line was that building mosques in Italy at the current rate of expansion was a form of cultural colonisation. He said mosques “are often places of cultural indoctrination, sometimes linked to international terrorism.” They get in the way of Muslims integrating into Italy’s Catholic culture, he said. Anyway, he finally said, Muslims don’t really need them as the Koran states that they can “pray anywhere.”

Italian Muslims pray outside Milan’s Jenner Street mosque, 9 Seot 2005/Daniele la MonacaApart from Rome, whose Grand Mosque is a strong contender for the title of Europe’s biggest mosque, Muslims in Italy certainly do have to “pray anywhere” at the moment. Many local communities, and not just those with Northern League mayors, have found ways to block the construction of new places of Islamic worship. Even Italy’s business capital Milan has no proper mosque. Thousands of Muslims have been forced to pray on the pavement outside a converted garage known as the “Jenner Street mosque.” But  local authorities have decided this was too disruptive and moved them to a velodrome, where local media say the Muslims are charged for entry as if they were going to watch a race.

The left-leaning La Repubblica newspaper asked last week if, with many Muslims in the League’s north-east strongholds forced to worship “in hiding” during the current Ramadan, the current centre-right government was respecting the constitutional right to freedom of worship. Il Giornale, the paper owned by Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi’s brother, reported on a “revolt against the mosques” in the north east. In the Veneto and Friuli regions, it said, about 150,000 Muslims who already have 40 prayer halls are asking for more, to the consternation of local communities.

Tensions concerning construction of new mosques have been reported from around Europe. What do you think about the way Italy is dealing with the issue?


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Catholics always try to get their way by force. Hey Catholics, try PRAYING and let God decide. The laws ought to allow as many mosques to be built as there is a need for them.

Posted by Prisca | Report as abusive

Well, I think instead of putting a ban on constructing more mosques why not strengthen our faith. The life styles we see in western world doesn’t seem to do this. If you want to show you faith on CHRIST don’t put troubles for others but make you faith so strong that nobody try to shake it!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Posted by Bobby Victor Thomas | Report as abusive

Can Catholics build a Church in Saudi Arabia?

Posted by Jill Jensen | Report as abusive

Typical out of touch north american comments. Here the problem is not a matter of faith. The northen league is a fascist and racist party who want to ban mosquee to please his electors, and because they want muslim out of italy. It has nothing to do with religion, it’s just anti-immigration new trick…anyway, God doesn’t exist;-)

Posted by rodrigo | Report as abusive

“Tolerance becomes a crime when applied to evil”. (Thomas Mann)

Posted by Hellstrike | Report as abusive

Assalamu’alaikum Wr WbRamadhan mubarak to you and your family, may Allah accept your fasting ibadah, and SALAM to all muslim ini your country too

Posted by Pak Karamu | Report as abusive

SalamRamadhan mubarak to you and your family, hope may Allah accept your fasting ibadah, and to all muslim in your contry to insya Allah

Posted by Pak Karamu | Report as abusive

[…] Italy gearing up to say “basta” to mosques – Reuters BlogsItaly may soon say “basta” (enough!) to new mosques. The far-right Northern League party, allies of centre-right Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, wants to limit the growth of Islam in the centre of world Catholicism by blocking the construction … […]

Posted by Italy » Florence Italy | Report as abusive

Reminder: Christian churches are banned in Saudi Arabia, home of Islam.Europe should stand up to these aggressors who want the whole world rules by sharia law.Too much tolerance allows people who do not believe in democracy and freedom to thrive. These bullies hide behind racism to spread a divisive political/military and religious system.We must stand up for our tradition and culture, at all costs. Whoever and wherever you are.

Posted by David Jones | Report as abusive

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Posted by Construction of mosques is suspended in Italy | Trends Updates | Report as abusive

Kingdom of Saudi Arabis ban church, italy can do the same thing.”Catholics always try to get their way by force. Hey Catholics, try PRAYING and let God decide.”If catholics are minority in islamic country, muslims always do the same thing the way, Ali Sina is right.

Posted by avi cenna | Report as abusive

Do you know what the outcome of this proposal was? Was this law passed in Italy?

Posted by Cannon | Report as abusive

Italy is correct at taking this stand, the country ismostly Catholic & functions well with this religion ofpeople choice. Respecting the right of other religionsdoes not mean Italians will be overpowered. A standin controlling the rising Muslim activist now is onlybut good for future peace, no one wants back the oldwars of religion. Radicals will have to change attitudefor commune peace, recognize all other religions or liveon the country of they origin with they’re religion.

Posted by Maurizio | Report as abusive