ROME (AA): Hundreds of Muslims prayed in front of Rome’s Colosseum on Friday in protest at the closure of unofficial mosques.
They called on city authorities to protect their religious rights and demanded legal status for prayer rooms in a country where only a small number of mosques are officially registered.
Francesco Terri, a spokesman for the Lazio Muslim Association, said the community wanted urgent legal regulation to allow Italy’s 1.6 million Muslims to worship at officially recognized mosques.
Most worship takes place in houses and Islamic cultural centres.
Interior Minister Angelino Alfano said in August that “mini mosques in garages” should not be allowed.
The rights group that organized the demonstration, the Dhuumcatu Association, which organised the protest, said police have closed three improvised mosques in Rome in recent months.
Attaching placards to a lamp post near the Colosseum, Sikdir Bulbul, a 41-year-old Bangladesh-born Italian citizen who has lived in Rome for 16 years, said the mosque he helped establish in 2012 had been shut down in September.
“Friday prayer is very important to us so today we have come to the Colosseum. Otherwise where else can we pray?” he said.
Dhuumcatu Association on its facebook says: “We need the political will to solve the problem. It’s a constitutional duty of the government to allow the exercise of a constitutional right like that to worship.”
Right-wing Roman politician Giorgia Meloni of the Brothers of Italy party, who came third in a mayoral election this year, has called for Muslims to be obliged to pray in Italian.