Top court blasted as 'Islamic'

Constitutional Court overturns Lombardy limitations

(ANSA) - Rome, February 24 - Italy's top court was blasted as "Islamic" Wednesday after it quashed a Lombardy regional law restricting the construction of mosques.
    Lombardy Governor Roberto Maroni, of the rightwing populist anti-immigrant and anti-euro Northern League, said that the left were hailing "Allah" after Italy's Constitutional Court overturned the regional regulation limiting the development of new mosques. "The Constitutional Court has rejected our law regulating the construction of new mosques," Maroni said on his Twitter account. "The left celebrates: Allah(u) Akbar". Premier Matteo Renzi's government appealed to the Constitutional Court last year after Maroni's centre-right administration for the region around Milan approved strict new planning laws for places of worship. Central government said the regulation breached the principle of equality between citizens and religions.
    The Constitutional Court struck down the regulation on Tuesday and will release the explanation of its ruling in the coming weeks.
    Northern League leader Matteo Salvini blasted the Constitutional Court as "Islamic, not Italian". "It is an accomplice in illegal immigration," he added.
    In contrast Davide Piccardo, the coordinator of the CAIM umbrella group for Islamic associations in Milan, Monza and Brianza, expressed "great satisfaction" at the ruling. "Now the city of Milan no longer has excuses to not complete the allocation of areas for the construction of mosques," Piccardo said. "The law was a legal disgrace and a case of unacceptable incivility and intolerance in Lombardy, where over 400,000 Muslims live and were considered second-class citizens. "It's serious that the public institutions were used to deny the rights of a part of the community". Piccardo praised central government for opposing the regional regulation and called for a national law to prevent similar situations in other parts of Italy.
    Paolo Grossi, the new president of Italy's Constitutional Court, hailed the ruling. "Our concern is to be custodians of fundamental rights: the essential nucleus of the sentence is based on avoiding discriminations, as the Court adjudged were present in the law," he said. The formerly secessionist Northern League, which has expanded from its northern Italian power base to become the biggest rightwing party in Italy, has long been against the construction of new mosques on its home turf in northern Italy.
    In 2009 the League demonstrated against plans to build a mosque in Genoa with a 'salami protest'. In 2007 a Northern League heavyweight, former minister Roberto Calderoli, called for a 'pig day' battle against mosque building on Italian soil.
    Calderoli, who was reform minister under the previous, Silvio Berlusconi-led government and was now deputy Senate speaker, said pigs should be brought in to thwart plans for the construction of a major mosque in Bologna.
    He said he had used the same tactic with success in another northern city, Lodi.
    In February 2006, Calderoli was forced to quit as reform minister after he sported a T-shirt emblazoned with the cartoons of the Prophet Mohammad which at the time were causing a wave of international Muslim protests.
    Calderoli's act was followed by violent demonstrations in Libya in which the Italian consulate in Benghazi was attacked. Some 15 people were killed after local police opened fire on a crowd trying to storm the consulate.
    The League has frequently caused rows with intolerant stances against Muslims and immigrants in general.
    In the wake of the September 2001 terror attacks on the US, the party demanded that mosques and Islamic centres be shut down and Italy's frontiers closed to Muslims.
    More recently, a League member called for the expulsion of Muslim immigrants who could not be 'vouched for' by an Italian citizen. The party has also spearheaded campaigns to ban burqas and veils in public.