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Italian Officials Unveil Plan to Establish Italian-Islamic Federation


Italy's outgoing interior minister, Giuliano Amato, and representatives of Muslim communities in Italy have unveiled plans to establish an Italian-Islamic Federation with legal recognition in Italy, while discouraging the spread of radical Islam. Sabina Castelfranco reports for VOA from Rome.

Representatives of several Muslim communities in Italy announced plans to establish a Federation of Italian Islam that will be granted legal status. The announcement was made one year after the approval of Italy's Charter of Values, Citizenship and Immigration, a code aimed at minorities, but especially Muslims.

The charter says, among other things, that polygamy is contrary to the rights of women and that immigrants seeking Italian citizenship should speak Italian and know about Italy's history.

The federation is intended to promote mosques devoted to moderation and to weaken those professing radical Islam.

Outgoing Italian Interior Minister Giuliano Amato talked told reporters the federation will bring together Muslim communities that pledge allegiance to the Italian constitution and the values charter.

Amato said the federation will be able to speak to Italian institutions to promote inter-religious dialogue and respect for religious freedom. It will also be able to manage mosques and the training of imams.

Not all Islamic communities and organizations in Italy have signed on to the project, but Amato believes Muslim groups that have not joined will follow in time.

He says those groups will join because the federation will guarantee Muslims the right to publicly profess their religion. Amato says he believes that many places that now disseminate propaganda and Islamic fundamentalist ideas will disappear as Muslims choose to pray in officially recognized mosques.

The president of the scientific committee studying the creation of the federation, Professor Carlo Cardia, says it is crucial for Muslims in Italy to have one voice.

Cardia says Muslims should have an organization recognized by the state.

Ambassador Mario Scialoja is a convert to Islam and member of the Islamic Culture Center in Italy. He says the federation will help keep political ideologies separate from worship.

Scialoja says Muslim communities in Italy involved with the federation want to ensure that Islam's true message, of peace and dialogue, is maintained.

About two million Muslims are believed to live in Italy, including legal and illegal immigrants. Italy is also home to the largest mosque in the European Union.