Religion


Italy: Bologna's mayor backtracks on mosque




Bologna, 29 April (AKI) - A controversial project to build a mosque in the northern Italian city of Bologna has been scrapped - officially because local Muslims did not agree to two key conditions.

"As far as we are concerned, the project no longer exists," said the city's councillor for urban planning," Virginio Merola, was quoted as saying in a report on the Italian daily Corriere della Sera on Tuesday.

Merola said the city's Islamic Cultural Centre's failure to reply to a recent letter laying down two essential conditions for the mosque to go ahead, showed it "disagreed" with the city council over the project.

Bologna's Islamic Cultural Centre says it remains committed to building a mosque, despite intense local opposition to the project. The centre's number two, Daniele Parracino was quoted as saying it would be asking for a swift meeting with the city council.

The city council's letter asked for a foundation to be set up that would ensure transparency over funding for the planned mosque.

The letter also asked Bologna's Muslim community to distance itself from Italy's largest Muslim group - the Union of Islamic Communities of Italy (UCOII).

The government last week excluded UCOII from its newly formed Italian Muslim Federation after the group refused to sign a 'charter of values' for Italy's religious minorities last year.

Bologna city council's move came as conservative candidate Gianni Alemanno won Rome's mayoral election on Monday, trouncing centre-left candidate Francesco Rutelli in a run-off.

Alemanno belongs to the conservative People of Freedom party (PDL) of prime minister elect Silvio Berlusconi, which scored a decisive win in Italy's general election earlier this this month.

The PDL relies on the support of the anti-immigrant Northern League party which performed strongly in the 13-14 April election, doubling its share of the vote compared with the 2006 election won by the centre-left.

Mayoral elections are due in Bologna next year and the ruling centre-left Democrat Party's decision to scrap the mosque project is being seen as an attempt to remove an electoral weapon from right-wing political forces, whose supporters oppose the plan to build the mosque in the city.

Bologna city council last September put on hold an earlier decision to set aside land for the mosque's construction in the northeast San Donato district of Bologna.

Bologna's centre-left mayor Sergio Cofferati (photo) said at that time the city council had decided to chose "a different participatory process involving the district."

"I believe it would be coherent to formulate the decision at the end of the participatory process. It remains , however, our intention to build the mosque in San Donato," Cofferati was quoted as saying.

Merola also backed Cofferati's remarks last September, arguing that "freedom of religion is a right."

A citizens' group was formed in Bologna last May to gather signatures for a referendum against the planned San Donato mosque - a project first conceived several years ago.


 

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