Italy’s Government is Not Cool with Anti-Mosque Laws

Italy’s consitutional court is reviewing a law many consider Islamophobic.

A Muslim woman in Bari, Italy. Photo by Flickr user Tambako the Jaguar.

The federal government of our favorite country-sized pasta factory, Italy, is trying to block a set of regulations dubbed by the media as “anti-mosque” laws, which would make it extremely difficult to construct any new mosques in the region of Lombardy. Although the laws do not explicitly reference mosques, the measure limits the construction of insitutions of worship for religions that are not recognized by the state. Although the government has signed agreements recognizing 11 different religious groups, Islam is not one of them—which is shocking, considering how popular Muslims in Europe are right now.

Italy’s constitution, however, includes an amendment on religious freedom, and federal legislators fear that the Lombardy laws violate it. The stipulations of the law are particularly troubling. The regulations would require that mosques (or any other houses of worship not recognized by the state) be surveilled by local law enforcement via closed circuit cameras recording everyone who comes and goes. Another provision precludes mosques from sounding the call to prayer.

Italy’s center-left Prime Minister, Matteo Renzi, forwarded the Lombardy laws to the consitutional court to be reviewed by federal judges, a move that has apparently pissed off the Islamophobic leader of Italy’s far-right party, the Northern League, Matteo Salvini. Like your typical schoolyard bully, Salvini took to Facebook to air his grievances with Renzi’s government. “Renzi and [Interior Minister] Alfano - here are the new Imams," he wrote in his post. He says that like it’s a bad thing!

Italy’s populist and center-left politicians are vocal in their opposition to the laws, calling them Islamophobic.

"With this law, the majority party criminalizes all 420,000 Muslims who live and work regularly in Lombardy,” said Eugenio Casalino, a member of the populist Five Star movement, to The Daily Beast. “It sells the myth that preventing new mosques means more security.”

As of 2014, there were eight official mosques in Italy, ostensibly catering to 1.5 million Muslims in the country. Many Muslims, however, congregate in makeshift places of worship, turning their garages, stores, living rooms, and even outdoor spaces into temporary mosques.

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