Categorized | Italy

Italy Takes Regional Anti-Mosque Law to Constitutional Court

Members of the Muslim community in Italy leave Rome
  • Members of the Muslim community in Italy leave Rome’s mosque after prayers

Following a series of protests across the country, Italy moved to block a regional law recently passed which was aimed at preventing the building of mosques.

Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi (center-left) declared on Friday that his government had gone to the Constitutional Court to examine the so-called “anti-mosque law” – a series of measures that were approved by local authorities (far-right) in the northern region of Lombardy at the end January.

The legislation possible breaches several constitutional rules of the country, such as freedom of religion, and could have over-stepped its ability to rule in state-religion matters, or given too much power to local mayors.

The law created various urban and political restrictions so that the building of mosques would be impossible. For instance, religious minorities that have not benefitted from any official recognition are now compelled to adapt their places of worship to local aesthetic canons, in addition to other bureaucratic obstacles.

Lombardy officials would also be required to convoke a public referendum before approving the building of any religious facilities in the region.

Islam is the only religion in the country that has not yet received official recognition. It is practiced by over a million Italian citizens and is the second biggest religion in the country according to a 2011 survey quoted by Russia Today.

The northern region of Lombardy, one of the wealthiest in the country as well an industrial heartland, has been ruled by the far-right Northern League allied with Italian Force. Matteo Salvini, leader of Northern League, responded to the government’s move by saying “Renzi and [Interior Minister] Alfano are the new Imams” on his Facebook page.

However, when the law was passed, surprisingly Renzi – who frequently comments on everyday political events on social networks – did not react. As for Alfano, one week before passing the law, he controversially conflated immigration and terrorism during a speech to legislators.

European countries are facing a wave of Islamophobia recently, and more and more frequently governments, especially at the local level, are granting the requests of part of their electorate by approving anti-Islam laws or measures. In 2009, Switzerland was the first country to prohibit building minarets – a measure later approved by referendum. More recently, the right-wing government of Austria initiated legislation in February that forbids the foreign funding of Muslim organizations in its territory.

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