CAIRO – Fulfilling the religious needs of its Muslim minority, the southern Italian island of Sicily will build a grand mosque to help Muslims perform their prayers.
“Sicily is enthusiastic about hosting Islam,” Mayor Vittorio Sgarbi said, ANSA news agency reported.
The mayor said an area will be allocated in Salemi town in south-western Sicily to build the mosque.
The construction of the Muslim worship place will be funded by the tiny Gulf state of Qatar.
“Nothing is more important than finding common sentiments and convictions in the different religions that consider a single God,” said Sgarbi.
“This is one of the reasons that just as our cities have Christian places of worship, I think it is important for a mosque to be built in Salemi for citizens of Arab culture and language. History imposes it upon us.”
Italy has a Muslim population of some 1.2 million, including 20,000 reverts, according to unofficial estimates.
For years, Muslims have been using gyms and football pitches waiting for a definitive solution.
Dozens of Muslims pray on the paving outside the small scattered mosques.
Building mosques in Italy was an almost “mission impossible” under former prime minister Silvio Berlusconi’s government and his ally the Northern League.
Portraying itself as a defender of Italy’s Christian roots, the League started its mission in the new government in May 2008 with bringing down a mosque in the northern city of Verona.
In 2008, the League rejoiced the success of its campaign to halt the building of a mosque in the northern city of Bologna.
The same year, League MP Mario Borghezio burst into a church in the northern city of Genoa shouting anti-Islam statements.