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Vatican City – A top Vatican official said Thursday Muslims should be allowed to build new mosques in Italy, where the country’s interior minister, citing terrorism fears, is pushing to ban such initiatives.
On Wednesday Interior Minister Roberto Maroni a member of the anti-immigration Northern League party, proposed a moratorium on the building of mosques following the arrest of two Moroccans suspected of planning a series of bomb attacks.
But Monsignor Gianfranco Ravasi who heads the Holy See’s culture department, suggested such a ban would be counterproductive.
“A place of worship if used as such, is always a source of communion and dialogue,” Ravasi was quoted as saying by the ANSA news agency.
However, Ravasi said that “controls” should be put in place to ensure such venues are used for genuine religious activity, “since if they become something else then civil society has the right to intervene and verify.”
Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi’s main political ally, the Northern League, has lodged a motion in Italy’s lower house of parliament for the ban on new mosques.
Such venues are “difficult to distinguish between places of worship and those that recruit terrorists and finance the planning of attacks,” Maroni said.
People of Freedom party officials say they will not support the proposal which has been condemned by the centre-left opposition and representatives of Italy’s Muslim community.
Rome houses Europe’s largest mosque but most most of the estimated 1.2 million Muslims living in Italy whorship in hundreds of converted buildings included garages and warehouses.
Meanwhile on Thursday, prosecutors in Milan questioned the two Morrocan suspects, Rachid Ilhami and Abdelkader Ghafir, at the city’s San Vittore prison where they are being accused of terrorism and collusion with al-Qaeda.
The two deny any wrongdoing says their lawyer, Ettore Traini, who has requested for a “proper” translation of allegedly incriminating conversations involving his clients that are contained in police wire taps.
Deutsche Presse-Agentur (dpa)
Copyright 2008 dpa Deutsche Presse-Agentur GmbH

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