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Italian Supreme Court Nullifies Lombardy’s ‘Anti-Mosque’ Law

Italy’s highest court has repealed a law that strictly regulated the construction of new mosques in the northern region of Lombardy, on the grounds that it unjustly discriminated against Muslims.

Representatives of the Northern League party, which sponsored the original bill, were quick to condemn the court’s ruling, calling it a victory for the left and for radical Islam.

“The State Council has rejected our law which regulated the construction of new mosques. The left exults: Allah Akbar,” tweeted Roberto Maroni, the president of the Lombardy Region and a member of the Northern League.

Maroni also said that the decision has not changed his mind on the integrity of the law, tweeting that there is no place in Lombardy for illegal mosques or Islamic centers where fanaticism and radicalism are preached.

Paolo Grossi, the new president of the Constitutional Court, spoke out in favor of the ruling. “Our concern is to be the guardian of fundamental rights: the core of the judgment rests on avoiding discrimination, which the Court believed was present in the law.”

The law was passed in the Lombardy region about a year ago, and contained a series of zoning regulations for the construction of new places of worship.

For example, it required that new places of worship fit into the “architecture of the Lombard landscape” and be voted in by local referendum. It also stipulated that the religion in question be officially recognized by the state, which Islam is not, because it has no signed agreement with the government.

The text had been challenged by the Government before the Constitutional Court, with the executive branch arguing that the law violated several articles of the Constitution, including the principles of equality of citizens and religious denominations.

According to the interior ministry, at the beginning of 2015 there were 1.6 million Muslims in Italy, 26.5% of whom lived in Lombardy, home to the country’s oldest and second largest mosque.

There are six official mosques in Italy, and over 700 additional places of Islamic worship. Many Muslims pray together in make-shift areas in a growing phenomenon dubbed by the ministry as “garage mosques.”

Northern League President Matteo Salvini denounced Wednesday’s decision, saying that the court was abetting illegal immigration.

“This is an Islamic Court, not an Italian one,” said League President, Matteo Salvini. “It is an accomplice to illegal immigration.”

Political opponents of the League, on the other hand, rushed to voice their support for the Court’s ruling.

“It did not take an expert to figure out that it violated the text of the Italian Constitution several times regarding the right to worship,” said Eugenio Casalino of the M5S party.

The high court has not yet published the full text of its opinion, but the government had previously denounced the law as going against “the exercise of fundamental rights of religious freedom” and the principle of equality among citizens.

Follow Thomas D. Williams on Twitter  

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