Many Italians were shocked to find pictures in their daily newspapers recently of Muslims kneeling in prayer on the piazzas in front of the cathedrals in Milan and Bologna during demonstrations in support of Palestinians in Gaza.
Predictably, politicians in the centre-right government criticised the protests with some, including the ministers for defence and European affairs, calling them a blasphemous provocation. (Photo: Il Giornale says Milan square “transformed into a mosque”)
The government ministers noted that it would be impossible for Christians to pray in Mecca and one called on the Roman Catholic Church to take a harder stand and be less tolerant.
Critics of the demonstrations have found an unlikely ally in Yahya Pallavicini, the vice-president of CO.RE.IS, Italy’s Islamic Religiuos Community. The demonstrations were organised by another Islamic group, the Union of Islamic Communities in Italy (UCOII) and Pallavicini thinks they went over the top.
“We pray in our mosques and in our in mosques and our homes but using prayer during demonstrations in such a theatrical way after burning U.S. and Israeli flags creates disorder and leads to the stereotyping of Islam in Italy,” he told me in a phone conversation. “This is a manouevre to try to help fundamentalist positions.”