Concern over a law in Italy that might shut down Muslim prayer areas


As Premier Meloni's far-right party pursues a bill that may remove over

1,000 Muslim worship locations, the opposition denounces "unacceptable discrimination."

The far-right coalition in power has proposed a contentious measure that has once again thrust Muslims and their places of worship into the spotlight of Italian politics.

The law's potential to close hundreds of Islamic prayer halls has alarmed the nation's 2.5 million Muslim population.

Politicians from the opposition are likewise outraged by the measure, which they see as unconstitutional and a kind of "unacceptable discrimination."

The law, put out by the Brothers of Italy party of Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni, will target places of worship that are not mosques or that have never been formally authorized to be used for worship, such the locations of numerous Muslim cultural organizations.

It's ridiculous. According to Yassine Lafram, president of the Union of Islamic Communities and Organizations in Italy (UCOII), "It will go against the freedom of practicing a religion, when the state should actually be creating conditions allowing people to exercise their right to practice any religion."

There were 1,217 Muslim prayer rooms in Italy as of 2017, according to a UCOII research that was published at the time.

According to the UCOII research, the remainder were generally categorized as cultural associations but were also utilized as prayer rooms, with the majority of them being set up in garages, warehouses, apartments, and basements.

The measure, which seeks to crack down on these locations, has a clause that would only permit prayers there if the relevant religious activities are subject to a contract with the Italian government.

As written, the legislation would mostly impact Italy's Muslim population, which is the largest religious group in the nation without a similar arrangement with the government.

‘Unacceptable discrimination

Additionally, those who are supporting the proposed law have made it clear that it is meant to outlaw those Islamic places of worship.

The bill's preamble states that "over the past ten years, we have witnessed a widespread proliferation of associations of social promotion, which de facto have as their predominant or sole purpose the management of places of worship for the Islamic communities in buildings that do not meet the urbanistic, structural, and safety requirements needed for such use."

The draft bill is currently being discussed in the Chamber of Deputies' environment committee, which is the lower house of Italy's Parliament.

The bill's author, a Brother of Italy legislator named Fabrizio Rossi, claimed that if it becomes law, cultural centers will be need to get authorization before using their spaces for prayer.

According to the minutes of the first discussion in the parliamentary committee, he asserted that the bill will respect everyone's right to exercise their religion in accordance with the Italian Constitution.

Rossi declined demands from Anadolu for an interview.

On the other hand, opposition MPs have denounced the measure as discriminatory and unconstitutional.

In a letter to the parliamentary speaker encouraging him to veto the draft bill, Greens and Left Alliance member Angelo Bonelli wrote: "There are many parishes and oratories in buildings which do not comply with urbanistic rules and, rightly so, are not shut down."

"It's an unacceptable form of discrimination."

No other choice

According to experts, it has always been a highly drawn-out, difficult, and expensive process to obtain permission to use a structure as a place of worship in Italy.

Mosques have frequently been opposed by local governments and populations, which has put a number of projects around the nation in a state of bureaucratic limbo.

According to religious leaders and scholars, this is why Muslims in Italy were forced to open such cultural institutions and utilize them as prayer rooms.

According to the draft law, it is true that they utilized escamotage, according to Fabrizio Ciocca, a researcher at Rome's La Sapienza University.

According to the draft law, it is true that they utilized escamotage, according to Fabrizio Ciocca, a researcher at Rome's La Sapienza University.

"But if you close all these centers, you have to offer a credible alternative to Muslim communities."

He emphasized that the over 1,000 associations that are in danger of closure serve as crucial community gathering places and serve as educational institutions that teach Arabic or the study of the Quran, the holy book of Muslims.

The Muslim community in the Rome district of Magliana, according to Sami Salem, an imam or leader of prayers, is prepared to work with Italian authorities to find a long-term solution.

"In order to build these centers, we made a lot of sacrifices. We are willing to cooperate with the authorities, he declared.

Lafram from UCOII claimed that his group has spoken to Italian politicians about the proposed bill.

He saw a silver lining in the possible crisis: a real dialogue about Islam and the condition of Muslims in Italy with the government.

"We would be the first to say we don't want to pray in warehouses or such places as a matter of dignity," he told Anadolu.

"However, the other side must offer a solution."


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