Italy Considers Legalizing Vigilante Groups

Nick Pisa, London Telegraph, November 10, 2008

Unauthorised patrols of several northern Italian cities have been underway for the last year and authorities have turned a blind eye to them as concerned locals fight back against rising crime rates.

Under the proposals by the anti-immigration Northern League, the vigilante patrols would have the backing of the local police. The plan is now to be considered by the Italian Upper House.

Another controversial proposal by the Northern League the introduction of a referendum before a mosque or other place of worship is built.

The League is part of centre right Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi’s coalition. Mr Berlusconi was elected on a tough law and order campaign.

Northern League MP Mario Borghezio said: “Thanks to the initiatives of the Northern League these ronde (vigilante) patrols will soon be working with the forces of law and order.

“Now all honest citizens will no longer feel that they have to hand over the areas where they live to criminals, drug dealers and prostitutes. It’s a very proud day.”

The Northern League, is led by firebrand Umberto Bossi, who once said the Italian navy should shell boats carrying immigrants. In April’s general election it doubled its national vote to more than 8 per cent.

The League capitalised on the fear of immigration with its election posters which showed an American Indian in a feathered headdress, with a caption saying: “They suffered immigration: Now they live in reserves.”

Many of the vigilante groups are based in the Veneto region which has a high proportion of Muslims and the outcry against the building of mosques has been stronger there than anywhere in Italy.

Last year the League’s Roberto Calderoli suggested a ‘pig day’ against new mosques across Italy. The idea was that a pig should be taken to any land where Muslims proposed to construct a mosque.

He said:”We will walk up and down on the land where they want to build, after which it will be considered infected and no longer suitable.”

The League has also proposed that no mosque should be able to have a minaret or loudspeakers calling the faithful to prayer, and sermons must be in Italian, not Arabic.

Given that many of the one million Muslims who are in Italy live in areas with a heavy Northern League influence, if passed the legislation is almost certain to mean no new mosques.

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