Italy's League blocks Muslims from converting chapel into mosque

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29 Oct, 2018 Updated Mon 29 Oct 2018 12:14 CEST
Italy's League blocks Muslims from converting chapel into mosque

Italy’s far-right League has blocked a Muslim group’s attempt to turn a former hospital chapel in Bergamo into a mosque.


When the chapel, in the northern city of Bergamo, was put up for auction by a local hospital last week, a local Muslim group made the highest bid with hopes of turning the former chapel into a mosque.

The Muslim group outbid the Romanian Orthodox Church, which has until now been using the property for its services, Reuters reports.

But the attempt to buy the chapel was quickly blocked by League leaders in the wealthy Lombardy region, which includes Bergamo, announcing they would prevent the sale by using a 2004 law that enables them to ‘intervene and safeguard cultural sites.’

Local laws make it almost impossible to build a mosque in the Lombardy region. Photo: Depositphotos/Jahmaica

The region’s president Attilio Fontana, a League politician known for his hardline anti-migrant stance, told local media the hospital had “made a mistake.”

“I would never put a Church up for sale and I’m amazed that the hospital management did not realise what a sensitive issue this is,” he wrote on Twitter. “However, we will exercise our right of first refusal and there will be no room for appeal.”

His decision means the Lombardy region must now buy the property.

The region of Lombardy has a set of religious building restrictions dubbed ‘anti-mosque laws’ which make it almost impossible for Muslim groups to get licenses to build mosques.

Instead they often have to use structures such as garages to hold prayer meetings.

League leader Matteo Salvini said earlier this year that Italian culture and society was ‘threatened’ and risked being eradicated by Islam.

“Centuries of history risk disappearing if Islamisation, which up until now has been underestimated, gains the upper hand,” he said.

Salvini's comments came after Fontana had caused outrage by saying Italy’s “white race” could be wiped out and that “we are under attack. Our culture, society, traditions and way of life are at risk."

The Italian public overestimates the size of the country's Muslim population by up to 500%, according to a survey

When asked what proportion of the country's population was Muslim, the average guess was 20 percent, or one in five.

In reality, Muslims make up just 3.7 percent of the population in Italy.

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