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Far-Right Party Blocks Italian Muslims Mosque Plan

ROME – A far-right Italian party has intervened Sunday, October 28, to block Muslim efforts to turn a former hospital into a mosque, thus disappointing members of the religious minority, Reuters reported.

“I would never put a Church on sale and I am amazed that the hospital management did not realize what a sensitive issue this is,” Lombardy President Attilio Fontana, a League politician, wrote on Twitter.

“However, we will exercise our right of first refusal (for the sale) and there will be no space for any appeal,” he added.

The situation started last week when a Muslim association made the highest offer for the chapel in the northern city of Bergamo at an auction organized by a local hospital, outbidding the Romanian Orthodox Church which had been using the building for its religious services.

The League leaders in the wealthy Lombardy region, which includes Bergamo, announced they would halt the sale by using a 2004 law that enables them to intervene and safeguard cultural sites.

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His decision means the region must now buy the property.

There was no immediate response from the Bergamo Muslim group to Lega Party’s announcement.

Muslims only represent a small minority in Roman Catholic Italy, with the Pew Research Centre saying they will make up 4.9 percent of the population by 2020 against 3.7 percent in 2010.

Islamic associations complain that local building restrictions make it almost impossible for them to get licenses to build mosques, meaning that they often have to use structures such as garages to hold their prayer meetings.