A decision to build a mosque near the Leaning Tower of Pisa in Italy has met with opposition claiming it could become a centre of radicalisation.
The local council has provisionally approved plans for a €4.5m (£3.8m) mosque 400 metres from the Tower, which is visited by more than 1 million people each year. However, hundreds of residents took part in a protest organised last weekend by the no mosque campaign.
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So far, the rightwing Forza Italia party, which is leading the campaign, has gathered more than 2,000 signatures on a petition calling for a referendum on the issue. The party claims a majority of the city’s 90,000 people oppose the mosque.
Speaking to the Daily Telegraph, Gianluca Gambini, a local Forza Italia politician said, “It’s not just that it would be built in the wrong location, just 400 metres from the Leaning Tower, but also because people know that mosques are places where there is a risk of radicalisation.”
Another Forza Italia MP said mosques were places that preached hatred. “Today we are at war, whether you like it or not, and we have to fight it with whatever we have. Mosques should be closed, not opened, because they are not places of worship, but places that preach hatred,” Daniela Santanche said.
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However, Marco Filippeschi, the mayor of Pisa, is in favour of the of the mosque and says any move to block it would contravene freedom of worship enshrined in the Italian constitution. “For 20 years, Muslims from Pisa have been coming together in a small mosque in the centre of town and no one has ever protested,” he said. “Not one cent will be spent by the council administration to build the mosque.”
Izzedin Elzir, the president of the Union of Islamic Communities in Italy, said a referendum on the mosque would be unconstitutional and threaten Muslims’ religious freedom. Pisa’s Muslim population has been increased by recent migration from North Africa and Bangladesh.
“Our rights should be protected. This campaign is based on prejudice and opposition generated by politicians who want to win votes by exploiting fear after the recent attacks in France, Belgium and Germany. They need to take responsibility for fanning the flames of prejudice and creating panic,” he told the Religion News Service.
This article originally appeared on The Guardian.
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