The ruling Brothers of Italy (FdI) party in Italy has brought a bill that seeks to ban the use of garages and industrial warehouses and facilities as mosques and to ban prayers outside the mosques. According to local Italian media reports, the Giorgia Meloni-led nationalist government has brought an amendment to the country’s urban planning legislation. The draft law aims to prohibit the transformation of industrial garages and warehouses into religious prayer sites or mosques.
The bill was introduced by the ruling Brothers of Italy (Fratelli d’Italia party), the party leading the current coalition government in Italy. As reported by the Italian media, the bill tries to amend the Italian building code. They want to make it legally binding for all religious groups to take permission for using unsanctioned buildings like Industrial garages and warehouses for religious purposes. Further, this would keep in check the location of mosques in Italy.
The bill was first signed by the group leader Tommaso Foti. It is currently being debated in the Chamber’s Environment Commission for Islamic communities where it is facing stiff opposition.
The opposition has objected to the bill, questioning its merit and constitutional legitimacy. They claimed that the urban planning regulation will curb their religious freedom.
Impact of the Bill
If passed, the bill would result in the closure of countless places of worship that are already located within buildings or premises that were not approved by the Italian govt. It is claimed that the bill will stop any potential Islamification of Italy.
According to reports, if the bill is passed, all those Cultural and religious organisations that have not signed an agreement with the Italian state will not be allowed to use any unsanctioned property as a Place of Worship. It is worth noting that Islam, despite being among the most widespread in Italy, is the only religion that has not signed an agreement with the Italian state.
Apparently, the Italian government does not officially recognise Islam as a state religion.
Opposition terms it ‘unconstitutional’
In a media interaction, the Imam at the Magliana Mosque in Rome, Sami Salem said, “It is a bill that clearly discriminates against Muslims and does not respect the Italian Constitution that protects all citizens living in Italy.”
Izzeddin Elzir, another imam from the Northern province of Florence, raised concerns about the legality of the bill.
Opposition leaders including Marco Simiani of the Pd, Green’s Angelo Bonelli, Daniela Ruffino (Action-Iv), and Franco Manes (linguistic minorities) have vehemently opposed the bill challenging its merit and constitutional legitimacy. These Liberal opposition politicians have termed it both Islamophobic and ‘unconstitutional’.
In fact, Green Party leader Angelo Bonelli has sent a letter to the Speaker of the Chamber Lorenzo Fontana. The Green Party has four seats in the assembly strength of 200 seats. Angelo Bonelli wrote that the bill discriminatory and it is totally unacceptable.
Background for the legislation
Last year, the Brothers of Italy (FdI party) was elected on the promise of opposing mass immigration, particularly those coming outside Europe. As an election promise, the Party’s leader in the Italian Chamber of Deputies, Tommaso Foti spearheaded this bill.
Furthermore, Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni too made efforts to reduce immigration. Last week, She meet the Tunisian leadership to discuss ways to stop illegal immigration into Italy.
However, this draft legislation banning religious prayers outside sanctioned buildings or mosques is not a first of its kind. Earlier, similar legislations, which were also termed anti-mosque legislations, were proposed by right-wing controlled regional councils in Lombardy and elsewhere.
As per media reports, these legislations have been brought keeping in mind the recent immigration from Morocco, the Balkans, and Pakistan. Reports further claim that this has drastically increased the number of Muslims in Italy.
It is notable that while the Italian constitution ensures freedom of religion, Roman Catholicism enjoys a special status and it recognises the Catholic Church as “independent and sovereign”. The religions in the country are regulated by law, based on agreements signed by the govt with their representatives. So far Italian govt has signed thirteen such agreements with several different churches, and representatives of Hindus, Buddhists, Jews, and others. However, no such agreement has been signed with Muslims.