Northern Italy ‘Anti-Mosque’ Law to Remain in Vigor

Mehmet Kaman / Anadolu Agency/AFP
Mehmet Kaman / Anadolu Agency/AFP

Contrary to recent news stories that Italy’s highest court had nullified a regional “anti-mosque” law in the northern Lombardy region, the region’s president is now crying victory, saying that the court’s ruling leaves the law substantially intact.

The center-right Northern League party drafted the law, which was voted in at the beginning of 2015, and although it tightened restrictions regarding all religious buildings, it was viewed as targeting the Muslim community especially.

The government of Prime Minister Matteo Renzi challenged the law on eight counts, but Lombardy President Roberto Maroni has said the court acknowledged only two of the eight challenges to the law, which will remain in vigor with “only a few changes.”

The court’s decision was announced in late February, but it did not provide concrete details of how it had reached its ruling or what it stipulated in practice until a month later.

Representatives of the Northern League party 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 at the time.

Now that the details of the decision have been made public, Maroni has made the ruling personal, proclaiming a triumph over the Renzi government by a score of “6 to 2,” adding that the two points where the courts found against the law were a question of “background details.”

“The government contested the law in eight points. The Constitutional Court only considered two of these points well grounded,” he said.

One of the two changes mandated by the Court concerns eliminating the distinction between religious denominations that have signed an agreement with the Italian state and those that have not. All must be treated equally, the court ruled.

The court’s second provision regards the obligation for places of worship to install video surveillance systems at their own expense, which it found to be overly onerous. Maroni responded that the local government will go ahead and install the surveillance cameras itself since “it is useful both for citizens and for those who attend places of worship, as seen from the daily news of attacks.”

The court accepted the law’s requirement that the architecture of new places of worship concord with the “Lombardy landscape.”

As of early 2015, 1.6 million Muslims are in Italy, according to the Interior Ministry, and 26.5% of these lived in Lombardy, home to the country’s oldest and second largest mosque.

Only six official mosques are in the country, and many Muslims pray together in makeshift worship centers that the ministry calls “garage mosques.”

Maroni said that the law will be applied with the appropriate modifications, but he emphasized the importance of the measure in light of current events.

When reporters argued that the Brussels bombers were not assiduous mosque-goers, the president countered with irony: “You are right, terrorism does not exist.”

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