Italy rightists raze Verona mosque

Italy’s far-right, anti-immigrant Northern League party has started its mission in the new government with bringing down a mosque in the northern city of Verona.

“[The mosque destruction] reinforces Muslim fears of seeing the League in the ruling coalition,” Ali Abu Shwaima, the head of Milan-based Islamic Centre, told on Saturday, May 24.

Bulldozers brought down last week a building housing a Muslim prayer room in the city. “I never felt at ease with this mosque,” Elisonder Antonneli, the head of Verona city council, said. “This place will be turned into a park and a car parking space and will be named after (Italian writer) Oriana Fallaci.”

Fallaci, who died in 2006, was notorious for anti-Islam stances. Following the 9/11 attacks, the far-right writer published a book entitled “Rage and Pride” in which she ridiculed the Noble Qur’an. She has also authored another book “The Force of Reason” in which she warned that Europe was turning into “an Islamic province, an Islamic colony” and that “to believe that a good Islam and a bad Islam exist goes against all reason.”

The Northern League has four ministers in Silovio Berlusconi’s government, including the portfolio of the Interior. The League grabbed 8 percent of the vote in last month’s general elections, securing Berlusconi’s right-wing coalition a comfortable majority in the parliament. The party has nearly doubled its parliamentary strength from 4.5 percent two years ago.

The Northern League is widely accused of racism with many critics calling it the BNP of Italy, a reference to the British right-wing party. Its election campaign played on issues such as immigration crime and economic and cultural fears from immigration.

Abu Shwaima, the Muslim leader, said Italian Muslims will face hard times under the far-right league. He said Muslims in the city of Verona used to find spiritual comfort at the razed mosque. “The mosque destruction is sign of spiraling Islamophobia in many European countries,” he said.

Islam Online, 24 May 2008