Thousands of Muslims gathered in protest outside Rome’s Colosseum Friday after Italian authorities shut down a number of so-called “garage mosques” to avoid young people becoming radicalized.
The Muslim community of Rome chose the iconic Colosseum, a worldwide symbol of Christian persecution and martyrdom, to stage their demonstration against the alleged shutting down by police of illegal places of Muslim worship in the city.
An imam led the group in chanting “Allahu Akbar,” which means in Arabic “God is great,” as they prostrated themselves on the ground.
Many Roman citizens were visibly disturbed by the protest, noting that in its propaganda videos, the Islamic State has repeatedly employed images of the Colosseum when threatening to conquer Rome and the “Crusaders.”
Two months ago, Italian police set up a high-security perimeter around the Colosseum, after the Islamic State issued a new threat to “conquer” Rome in its latest video.
New entrance gates have also been installed around the Colosseum to enable better surveillance and control by law enforcement, according to Rome’s police chief Nicolò D’Angelo.
A Bangladeshi Islamic group called Dhuumcatu reportedly organized the demonstration, saying that police had closed three makeshift mosques in Rome in the last few months.
Italian Interior Minister Angelino Alfano did not deny the allegations, and in fact in August said that “mini mosques in garages” should not be allowed as it makes them difficult to monitor, possibly raising the risk of radicalization.
Until now, Italy has shown itself to be remarkably resilient to attacks from Islamic terrorists and has been proposed as a model for counterterrorism for the whole world, in part because of its willingness to deport radicalized individuals seen as a threat to national security.
Italian counterterrorism advocates profiling as a necessary means of maintaining national security, and has deported a number of radicalized imams over the past year. As of mid-October, Italy had deported a total of 56 Islamic extremists in 2016, bringing the total since January 2015 to 122 such expulsions.
Last fall, leading military analyst Edward N. Luttwak praised the Italian “model,” arguing that Italy has been successful in thwarting Islamic terror attempts because of its swift and decisive action.
In an essay titled “Doing Counterterrorism Right,” Luttwak noted that despite many factors going against Italy, Islamic terrorists have failed to kill a single person on Italian soil. He contrasted Italy with France and Belgium, observing that although Italy is much more vulnerable than they are, it has been far more effective at stopping would-be terrorists before they strike.
A cross now stands outside the Roman Colosseum with a plaque bearing the inscription: “The amphitheater, once consecrated to triumphs, entertainments, and the impious worship of pagan gods, is now dedicated to the sufferings of the martyrs purified from impious superstitions.”
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