Why is Italy in the middle of a religious row?


The country is grappling with an influx of immigrants with religious and ethnic ties to Europe.

It has faced calls to ban the construction of a mosque tower, amid fears that it could promote extremism.

Italy’s Interior Minister has said that he has asked the country’s parliament to vote on whether to ban a mosque built on the site of the historic town of Viterbo, which was a Muslim cemetery and mosque in the 14th century.

A group of politicians, led by Interior Minister Angelino Alfano, have asked the Senate to ban Viterbium’s Muslim cemetery, which is under construction.

They say the building threatens to inflame tensions.

In response, a group of Italian citizens have staged protests in the city, chanting “Stop the construction”.

“We are not in the business of making a decision about mosques,” Interior Minister Alfano said on Tuesday.

“The building is illegal and there is no need for such a decision.”

The Muslim cemetery was built on a site where Viterboni’s church stands, with a large mosque nearby.

It was built in 1289 after a nearby village was looted.

The cemetery is under threat of demolition, however, as concerns grow that it will serve as a magnet for extremists.

“I would be delighted to see the mosque condemned,” Alfano told local media on Tuesday morning.

“But the building is a monument to a religious tradition and I would not wish to damage it.”

Italy’s parliament has until the end of the month to vote, or suspend its construction.