Bologna’s mayor backtracks on mosque; project ‘badly handled,’ says scholar

A controversial project to build a mosque in Bologna has been scrapped, due to lack of agreement from local Muslims concerning two key conditions. The city’s Islamic Cultural Centre failed to reply to a letter laying town two essential conditions for the mosque to go ahead; the city’s councillor, Virginio Merola says this indicated a disagreement with the city council over the project. The city council’s letter asked for (1) a foundation to be set up to ensure transparency over funding for the planned mosque, and (2) that Bologna’s Muslim community distance itself from Italy’s largest Muslim group – the Union of Islamic Communities of Italy (UCOII). While plans for the mosque construction have now fallen through, Bologna’s Islamic Cultural Centre says it remains committed to building the mosque, despite opposition. A former coordinator for the mosques in the Emilia Romagna region, Hasan Giulio Soravia , criticized leaders for failing to break away from the UCOII, the largest Muslim group in Italy. The UCOII has many members that belong to the Islamist Muslim Brotherhood movement, and as such, Muslim projects in Italy have been encouraged to sever ties with the association. However, Soravia remains hopeful, that Muslims in Italy will e able to forge their own Islam that distances itself from the logic of Arab states.

Anti-Islamic Party Is Playing With Fear

Right-wing radicals in Cologne are gaining traction with Germany’s first anti-Islamic party. The German domestic intelligence agency is alarmed — but so are traditional neo-Nazis, whomay have to shift their tactics to compete. The so-called “Pro Cologne” pary has been watched with suspicion by the domestic intelligence agency — the Verfassungsschutz or Office for the Protection of the Constitution — for several months. They are gathering support in the otherwise liberal-minded and open city of Cologne to protest an enormous mosque slated for construction in the district of Ehrenfeld. Around 300 members of Pro Cologne have collected more than 20,000 signatures, and a few unsavory characters on the German far right hope to use their success as a way to win seats in state parliaments.With a new political party called “Pro NRW” (Pro North-Rhine Westphalia), stemming from the Pro Cologne movement, two leaders named Markus Beisicht and Manfred Rouhs want to win enough votes to enter the state parliament in 2010. About a dozen Pro Cologne spinoffs are already preparing local campaigns across the state — in Gelsenkirchen, Duisburg, D_sseldorf, Essen and Bottrop, among other places. Where no new mosques are being planned, Beisicht says, the party will just fight smaller existing mosques. The Rhinelanders also have their eyes on Berlin: Party functionaries sent mailouts last October to addresses in the capital to protest a planned mosque in the Berlin district of Charlottenburg. They’ve even established a citizens’ movement with an even more awkward name: “Pro Deutschland.” Officials at the Office for the Protection of the Constitution think it’s possible that Beisicht and his friends will gain resonance with voters and even overtake the neo-Nazi National Democratic Party (NPD) in western states. The NPD — which tends to line up with Israel-hating Muslim groups — has tried to block the new competition by mounting similar anti-mosque efforts. They’ve organized a group in M_nster called “Citizens’ Movement Pro M_nster” to hinder the Cologne party’s march to state power. Andrea Brandt and Guido Kleinhubbert report.

Pig’s walkabout on planned mosque site sparks protests

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.