Italy's city plan ruling sparks mosque row

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Worshipers outside a Rome mosque. Photo: Alberto Pizzoli/AFP
12:07 CET+01:00
Italy's urban planners must give space to non-Catholic religious groups, a Lombardy court has ruled, sparking a backlash from the country's far-right Northern League party, which branded the decision a "disgraceful judgement".

The decision by Lombardy’s administrative court (Tar) goes against the northern region’s urban planning office (Pgt), which the court said did not give enough consideration to the needs of religious communities outside the Catholic Church.

The debate centres around service plans for the city of Brescia, which the court said made no reference to the needs of non-Catholic citizens, Il Fatto Quotidiano reported.

In its ruling, the court said that each administration needed to take a snapshot of society and devise a plan based on that reality, without prejudice, the newspaper said.

The decision in Lombardy should make it easier for other religious groups to gain permission to open centres of worship.

Sarita Agerman, a Muslim woman living in Bologna, told The Local the decision could be "good for tourism".

"I received weekly emails from Muslims, especially young women, who want to know if such and such a city is 'Muslim-friendly'. Knowing that there is an official mosque would make a city [in Italy] much more welcoming for visitors," she said.

Muslim women coming to Italy - often as medical or engineering students or as qualified workers - are nervous that there may not be enough safe places to pray. Allowing for purpose-build mosques in Italian cities "would mean that Muslim women would be catered for and feel part of the community, both Muslim and Italian," Agerman said.

But Roberto Maroni, president of the far-right Northern League (Lega Nord) party, said the move was a “disgraceful judgement” which “forces each city to have a mosque”.

Maroni was quoted in Brescia Today as saying his party was "already studying appeals and remedies to prevent the spread of the virus."

His statement was met with criticism from Khalid Chaouki, MP for the centre-left Democratic Party (PD) and coordinator of the parliamentary group on immigration.

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“To Marino, we say with strength that the true and only virus to eradicate is his racist propaganda that tries to, in a shamefully inexperienced way, hinder the religious freedoms of our country,” Chaouki was quoted in Brescia Today as saying.

“The right to worship for all religious communities is a principle of the Italian constitution,” Chaouki added in support of the court’s decision.

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