Italy Court Annuls Anti-Mosque Law

ROME – Italy’s top court has rejected a law by the Lombardy region to limit the construction of new mosques, seeing it as an attempt by anti-immigrant politicians to add more restrictions on immigrants and Muslims, reported.

Widely known as “anti-mosque” laws, the new regulations stipulates that anyone seeking to build a new place of worship for a religion not officially recognized by the state would be subject to an extensive list of special restrictions ranging from the size of associated parking facilities, to the outward appearance of the buildings.

Since Islam is the only major religion not recognized by the Italian state, the new rules have been seen as being specifically targeted at Italy’s more than one million Muslims.

The law also allowed Lombardy’s officials to call a local referendum about building any new place of worship in the region.

Facing outcry as a blatantly discriminatory move in the northern region, Prime Minister Matteo Renzi’s center-left government referred the rules to the Constitutional Court for review.

Critics say the legislation breaches Italy’s constitution on several grounds and is bound to be overturned by the Constitutional Court.

Others believe that Italy’s Constitutional Court is bound to revoke the discriminatory law as it breaches the country’s constitution on several grounds.

Wednesday’s court decision was criticized by Roberto Maroni, the Northern League president of the Lombardy region who took to twitter to announce it.

“The court has rejected our law regulating the construction of new mosques,” Maroni wrote. “The left celebrates: Allah Akbar.”

The primary religion in Italy is Roman Catholicism, and about 80 percent of the population identifies as Roman Catholic or as a member of another Christian faith, according to the CIA World Factbook.

Italy has a Muslim population of some 1.7 million, including 20,000 reverts, according to the figures released by Istat, the national statistics agency.

Since the early 1980s, Italy has given taxpayer revenue to religious faiths the government recognizes.

The funds are used largely for the upkeep of religious structures, including Jewish and Buddhist temples, Greek Orthodox churches, and Jehovah’s Witnesses congregations. But mosques aren’t on the list.

The Mosque (or Masjid) of Rome — completed in 1995 as a goodwill gesture to help diminish a long history of animosity between Catholics and Muslims — is the only Islamic structure that has received government recognition, and funds, in Italy.

A Pew Research Center poll released in January found that Italians — at 63 percent of respondents — lead Western Europe in holding “unfavorable” views of Muslims.

Greeks came in second, at 53 percent, while a majority of French, British and Germans viewed Muslims favorably.