Italian Muslims Say New Terror Measures Fall Short

ROME Muslim leaders in Italy said that newly approved antiterror measures would go only part of the way in preventing London-style bomb attacks, and that the monitoring of religious leaders and mosques needed to be increased. The new measures, approved Friday by the government of Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, make it a specific crime to recruit and train people for terrorism. They also increase security on Italy’s transport system and allow authorities to collect saliva samples from suspects for DNA testing. “The aspect of prevention is very important,” said Yassine Belkassem, vice president of the Confederation of Moroccans in Italy. “But we will have problems with the second generation of immigrants in Italy.” Belkassem and others said Italy’s growing Muslim community is often led by foreigners who are unqualified as religious leaders but claim to be imams and give sermons with no oversight at makeshift mosques or Islamic cultural centers. The government “needs to intervene to see who are these people, and who are the people who frequent these centers,” Belkassem said. Those interviewed said that, generally, there was no official school or degree needed to become an imam, and that the only requirement for leading the faithful was to be well versed in the Koran and Islamic theology. The community also must recognize an imam as such. “The one in Rome is the only one who has studied and has a diploma,” said Khalid Chaouki, a former president of the Young Muslims of Italy. He stressed the need for the Italian government to get more involved in following what’s happening in the Muslim community, saying, “We are for total transparency.” Chaouki said there were about 1.1 million Muslims in Italy and that the number was growing rapidly. He said better oversight and support for the mainstream, more moderate Muslim community “could stop our young from falling into the trap of fundamentalism.” Paris on Monday marked the 10th anniversary of a 1995 subway bombing by Algerian Islamic militants that turned train cars packed with rush-hour commuters into twisted wreckage amid a new wave of terror attacks in Europe. The attack of July 25, 1995, on Paris’s Saint-Michel station, near Notre Dame cathedral, killed eight people and wounded 150. It was the first in a series that terrorized Paris commuters. Gas-cooking canisters loaded with nails, sometimes hidden in garbage cans, were used in many of the bombings. The Armed Islamic Group, or GIA, a radical Algerian insurgency movement, claimed responsibility for some of the bombings, saying it was punishing France for supporting Algeria’s military-backed government in its war on Islamic insurgents. A man who falsely claimed to have a bomb in his bag prompted the authorities to evacuate Pennsylvania Station in Manhattan for more than an hour Sunday, causing delays for travelers across the Northeast and adding to a week of increased security in New York’s subway stations. Police officers also halted a tour bus and searched its passengers. In a dispute with an Amtrak ticket agent, the man placed a bag on a ticket counter and said a bomb was inside, the police said. The threat was unsubstantiated, but caused National Guardsmen in military fatigues to clear the station just after midday. Pope Benedict XVI said Monday he did not see an anti-Christian motive in the recent wave of terrorist attacks blamed on Islamic extremists, attributing them instead to “a much more general intention.” The pontiff also told reporters while vacationing in the Italian Alps that it was important to seek dialogue with the best elements of Islam.