Thousands of mourners took part in an emotional funeral Mass for victims of the earthquake in the central Italian region of Abruzzo that left 290 people dead and 28,000 homeless. A representative of the Italian Muslim community, Mohamed Nour Dachan, participated in the funerals. Dachan appealed that all the mourners be “united in brotherly live,” and was met with applause. Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi was also in attendance of the service, which was lead by the Vatican’s second highest official, Cardinal Tascisio Bertone, and was broadcast live on national television.
Two imams and the leaders of two main Muslim associations in Italy were among the appointed members of a newly created advisory council aimed at developing dialogue between the Italian government and the Muslim community, the interior minister confirmed Wednesday. Interior Minister Giuseppe Pisanu, presenting the 16 members of the council in Rome, said moderate Islamic representatives are “our natural allies in the fight against extremism.” “The council is the hand that we stretch out to moderate Muslims in order to move on together on the path of integration,” Pisanu told. “Many of the members have already taken an official position against terrorism,” he added. Half of the council members have Italian nationality, while the others are a Tunisian, two Moroccans, a Libyan, an Algerian, a Somali, an Albanian and a Senegalese. There are about 1.1 million Muslims in Italy, an overwhelmingly Catholic country of about 58 million people. Among the members of the council are Italian imam Yahya Sergio Yahe Pallavicini, based in Milan, and Algerian Rachid Amadia, imam of Salerno, southern Italy. Mario Scialoja, the president of the Muslim World League in Italy, and Mohamed Nour Dachan, head of the Union of Islamic Communities and Organizations in Italy, were also appointed. The Islamic council, which was created in September, responds directly to the Interior Ministry, and is responsible for counseling the government on various issues concerning the integration of Muslims, the AP reports.