Posted on December 5, 2008

Party Seeks New Mosque Ban

AFP, December 4, 2008

THE party of Italian Interior Minister Roberto Maroni wants a moratorium on the building of mosques, citing fears of terrorist attacks, the Turin daily La Stampa reported on Thursday.

The anti-immigration Northern League, the main ally of conservative Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, made the demand after two men were arrested Tuesday on suspicion of planning attacks in and near Milan, Italy’s northern economic hub.

‘These arrests show that Islamist terrorism is entrenched in Italy, and that we must be vigilant,’ Mr Maroni told the paper. ‘Unfortunately it is not easy to distinguish between places of worship and those that recruit terrorists and finance the planning of attacks,’ he said.

The Northern League has lodged a motion in the lower house of parliament for a ban on the building of Muslim places of worship and cultural centres in Italy until parliament passes a law to oversee their construction, La Stampa said.

‘Mosques are springing up like mushrooms, and mayors can do nothing about it because there is no law,’ said Mr Roberto Cota, the head of the Northern League’s group in the Chamber of Deputies.

Mr Izzedin Elzir, the head of Italy’s main Muslim association UCOII, reacted immediately to the proposal, telling the ANSA news agency: ‘Mosques are meeting places and places of peace that facilitate the work of security forces.’

Italy is home to some 1.2 million Muslims and counts 258 mosques and 628 Islamic associations, according to the Italian press.

The two men arrested in Milan on Tuesday, reportedly Moroccan, are accused of planning attacks on a supermarket in Seregno, north of Milan, and a police barracks and an immigration office in Milan.

About 10 people implicated in the investigation whose telephones were tapped revealed Al-Qaeda sympathies during their conversations, ANSA said, adding that the two Moroccans are the first to face charges of planning attacks on Italian soil.

Others have been arrested on suspicion of belonging to a logistical cell or having recruited suicide bombers to carry out attacks in the Middle East.

Berlusconi’s People of Freedoms party allied with the Northern League to win general elections in April, largely on a security platform, and they enjoy comfortable majorities in both houses of parliament.

They moved quickly to toughen immigration policy, drawing fire for a plan to fingerprint Roma, or gypsies.—AFP