News / Europe

Muslim Leader Proposing Mosque in Florence, Italy

Sabina Castelfranco

As the number of Muslims in Italy continues to rise, there are growing calls for places of prayer for their communities. In Florence, a Muslim leader is presenting plans for a mosque in the style of the city's classic architecture. In Milan, a Catholic archbishop has added his voice for the right of Muslims to have a place of worship.

Muslims around the world are holding their Friday prayers, the first now that their Holy Month of Ramadan has come to an end. In Italy, as the number of Muslims  continues to rise with growing immigration, Muslims are wanting their own places of prayer close to where they live and work.

In Florence a Muslim leader has announced that he will present plans to authorities in the coming weeks to build a mosque with minarets that resemble the cathedral tower designed by the Italian Renaissance artist Giotto. The local imam Izzedin Elzir says that Islamic history shows that Muslims seek to embrace the architecture of the places where they go.

The exterior of the mosque has been designed with bands of green and white marble, similar to many of the city's landmark churches and buildings. There have been several positive reactions to the plans, including messages of support from local Christian communities.

But local leaders of the anti-immigrant Northern League oppose the proposal, describing the construction of mosques as a destabilizing force in society. Some have suggested that a referendum should be held on its construction.

Meanwhile in the northern Italian city of Milan a debate has resurfaced on the failure of the city authorities to allow the construction of a mosque for the thousands of Muslims who live in and around the city.

The Archbishop of Milan, Dionigi Tettamanzi, urged city authorities to give the green light for the construction of a mosque in the city. He said the city's institutions must guarantee religious freedom to all and that Muslims also have the right to practice their faith.

But Milan administrators do not appear willing to listen. Matteo Salvini is a Northern League deputy at the European parliament.

He said the League's position is that a mosque in Milan is not a priority for the city authorities. He adds that at present there are no trustworthy and credible Muslim representatives in the city with whom to hold a dialogue. Therefore a mosque for Milan is the least of the issues.

Abdel Hamid Shari runs the Islamic Culture Center in Milan's Viale Jenner, which previously had a mosque linked to it. In the past, hundreds used to pray out in the street as well but the government put an end to that practice two years ago. They closed the mosque saying it was a question of public order. The mosque was also described by authorities as "a haven for terrorists" when a number of Muslims who prayed there were arrested for illegal activities linked to terrorism. Now Muslims are praying inside the unauthorized mosque again which is inside a makeshift garage.

And, Shari says, there are many others like that in the city. "These are places that were not for prayers. They were warehouses, garages, under ground areas. We adapted them for our needs. They are certainly not adequate for prayers," he said.

One hundred thousand Muslims live in Milan. Northern League deputy Salvini says only a small minority of these actually pray.

He says Muslims have plenty of places to pray and those who are serious about their prayers are a very small number, less than five percent. He insists that the problem of building a new large mosque in Milan is completely irrelevant both for the people from Milan and for the Islamic community.

You May Like

Photogallery Brussels Schools, Metro Reopen Under Heavy Guard

City remains under the highest threat alert level due to what authorities have described as a 'serious and imminent' threat of attack

Video Debt-ridden Refugees Await Onslaught of Lebanese Winter

Aid agencies are attempting to reduce potentially devastating consequences of freezing conditions and snowstorms that killed eight last year, including three Syrian refugees

UN Warns Air Pollution in Asia Pacific Has Rising Cost

Globally some seven million people a year die prematurely due to indoor and outdoor pollution with about 70 per cent of those deaths in region

This forum has been closed.
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
After Paris Attacks, France Steps Up Fight Against ISi
November 24, 2015 3:04 AM
The November 13 Paris attacks have drawn increased attention to Syria, where many of the suspected perpetrators are said to have received training. French President Francois Hollande is working to build a broad international coalition to defeat Islamic State in Syria and in Iraq. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video After Paris Attacks, France Steps Up Fight Against IS

The November 13 Paris attacks have drawn increased attention to Syria, where many of the suspected perpetrators are said to have received training. French President Francois Hollande is working to build a broad international coalition to defeat Islamic State in Syria and in Iraq. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video US, Cambodian Navies Pair Up in Gulf of Thailand

The U.S. Navy has deployed one of its newest and most advanced ships to Cambodia to conduct joint training drills in the Gulf of Thailand. Riding hull-to-hull with Cambodian ships, the seamen of the USS Fort Worth are executing joint-training drills that will help build relations in Southeast Asia. David Boyle reports for VOA from Preah Sihanouk province.

Video Americans Sharpen Focus on Terrorism

Washington will be quieter than usual this week due to the Thanksgiving holiday, even as Americans across the nation register heightened concerns over possible terrorist threats. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports new polling data from ABC News and the Washington Post newspaper show an electorate increasingly focused on security issues after the deadly Islamic State attacks in Paris.

Video World Leaders Head to Paris for Climate Deal

Heads of state from nearly 80 countries are heading to Paris (November 30-December 11) to craft a global climate change agreement. The new accord will replace the Kyoto Protocol on Climate Change that expired in 2012.

Video Uncertain Future for Syrian Refugee Resettlement in Illinois

For the trickle of Syrian refugees finding new homes in the Midwest city of Chicago, the call to end resettlement in many U.S. states is adding another dimension to their long journey fleeing war. Organizations working to help them integrate say the backlash since the Paris attacks is both harming and helping their efforts to provide refugees sanctuary. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.

Video Creating Physical Virtual Reality With Tiny Drones

As many computer gamers know, virtual reality is a three-dimensional picture, projected inside special googles. It can fool your brain into thinking the computer world is the real world. But If you try to touch it, it’s not there. Now Canadian researchers say it may be possible to create a physical virtual reality using tiny drones. VOA’s George Putic reports.

Video New American Indian Village Takes Visitors Back in Time

There is precious little opportunity to experience what life was like in the United States before its colonization by European settlers. Now, an American Indian village built in a park outside Washington is taking visitors back in time to experience the way of life of America's indigenous people. Carol Pearson narrates this report from VOA's June Soh.

Video Even With Hometown Liberated, Yazidi Refugees Fear Return

While the northern Iraqi town of Sinjar has been liberated from Islamic State forces, it's not clear whether Yazidi residents who fled the militants will now return home. VOA’s Mahmut Bozarslan talked with Yazidis, a religious and ethnic minority, at a Turkish refugee camp in Diyarbakır. Robert Raffaele narrates his report.

Video Nairobi Tailors Make Pope Francis’ Vestments

To ensure the pope is properly attired during his visit, the Kenya Conference of Catholic Bishops asked the Dolly Craft Sewing Project in the Nairobi slum of Kangemi to make the pope's vestments, the garments he will wear during the various ceremonies. Jill Craig reports.

Video Cross-Border Terrorism Puts Europe’s Passport-Free Travel in Doubt

The fallout from the Islamic State terror attacks in Paris has put the future of Europe’s passport-free travel area, known as the "Schengen Zone," in doubt. Several of the perpetrators were known to intelligence agencies, but were not intercepted. Henry Ridgwell reports from London European ministers are to hold an emergency meeting Friday in Brussels to look at ways of improving security.

Video El Niño Brings Unexpected Fish From Mexico to California

Fish in an unexpected spectrum of sizes, shapes and colors are moving north, through El Niño's warm currents from Mexican waters to the Pacific Ocean off California’s coast. El Nino is the periodic warming of the eastern and central Pacific Ocean. As Faiza Elmasry tells us, this phenomenon thrills scientists and gives anglers the chance of a once-in-a-lifetime big catch. Faith Lapidus narrates.

Video Terrorism in Many Forms Continues to Plague Africa

While the world's attention is on Paris in the wake of Friday night's deadly attacks, terrorism from various sides remains a looming threat in many African countries. Nigerian cities have been targeted this week by attacks many believe were staged by the violent Islamist group Boko Haram. In addition, residents in many regions are forced to flee their homes as they are terrorized by armed militias. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video Study: Underage Marriage Rate Higher for Females in Pakistan

While attitudes about the societal role of females in Pakistan are evolving, research by child advocacy group Plan International suggests that underage marriage of girls remains a particularly big issue in the country. VOA’s Ayesha Tanzeem reports how such marriages leads to further social problems.

VOA Blogs