Members of Italy’s Muslim community met on Friday to find new ways to combat extremism. The meeting, held in Rome’s main mosque, was the first of its kind to be organized by the Association of Muslim Intellectuals. “We placed attention on the need to implement strategies to prevent Islamic radicalism and foster initiatives that aim to create a more accurate image of Islam,” said in a statement by the group. The group also asserted that it would support an initiative by Pope Benedict XVI who intends to read from parts of Genesis in a televised speech to be given in October. The president of the organization, Ahmad Gianpiero Vincenzo said that the group is happy to participate in a moment of great religious and civil significance.
Italy’s former deputy education minister, Mariella Mazzetto, has sparked protests after parading a pig on the site of a planned mosque in the northern Italian city of Padua. Mazzetto, a member of the populist, anti-immigrant, right-wing party, said the act was in defense of maintaining Italian identity. Pigs are considered an unclean animal in Islam, making the act extremely insensitive for Muslims. Several officials across political lines have condemned Massetto’s offense, including Giancarlo Galen, the right wing president of the Veneto region, Padua’s left-wing mayor Flavio Zononto, and Green party councillor Aurora D’Agostino. In October, Northern League senator and former minister Roberto Calreroli proposed a regular pig day, in which he threatened to take his pet pig on land where Italy’s Muslim communities were planning new mosques. Northern Italy has seen a jump in share of the country’s immigrants, due largely to labor sought for farm and factory work.
A far-right senior Italian senator, called for a “Pig Day” protest against the planned construction of a mosque in northern Italy. Roberto Calderoli of the anti-immigrant Northern League party said last Thursday that he was ready to bring his own pig to “defile” the site where the mosque is due to be built in the northern city of Bologna. “I am making myself and my pig available for a walk at the site where they want to build the mosque,” Calderoli, who is a deputy speaker of Italy’s Senate, said in a statement. “Those words are highly offensive and indecent, especially as they are coming from an Italian lawmaker,” Mario Scialoja, a prominent leader of Italy’s Muslim minority, told Reuters. Calderoli also said he would eat “a nice plateful of pork chops to show my lack of sympathy for those who consider pork forbidden meat.”
A radical Muslim leader has won a court battle to remove the crucifix from a state school where his children attend – a decision which has shocked political and public opinion and caused deep concern within Italy’s Muslim community.