The Italian home affairs minister, Roberto Maroni, a member of the hardline, anti-immigrant Northern League, has ordered the closure of Milan’s largest mosque. The Jenner mosque attracts 4,000 worshippers each week.
Maroni said that the site is overcrowded and causes problems for local residents. He went on to say that anybody found praying in the street outside the mosque will be arrested. The city council has offered the use of a local stadium but has said it can only be used four times each week and that each person will be charged on entry.
The president of the mosque, Abdel Hamid Shaari, has said he is happy to pay rent but that its members “won’t be treated like nomads”.
“We are Milanese and we are not going to accept the solution that’s being offered,” he added.
Meanwhile Italy’s highest court of appeal has published the grounds on which to overturned the conviction in March of the mayor of Verona, Flavio Tosi, and four other members of his Northern League party, for racially discriminatory propaganda. Tosi had written a petition in 2001 calling for the demolition of all Roma camps in Verona, later adding The Gypsies must be ordered out because, wherever they arrive, there are robberies.”
The court declared that “discrimination based on diversity is different from discrimination based on somebody’s criminality.” In plain language they were saying it is perfectly acceptable to brand all Roma as “thieves”.
Last weekend hundreds of people protested in Rome over the right wing government’s criminalisation of the country’s Roma population, including those who hold Italian citizenship.
Maroni has ordered a “census” of Roma camps involving the police taking photographs and fingerprints of children as well as adults. These will be collected on a database – a racial register – and anyone found guilty of even a petty offence will face immediate deportation.
These measures have been ordered under war time laws enacted by the fascist dictatorship of Benito Mussolini. This denial of fundamental rights to Italian residents and citizens comes on the 80th anniversary this month of Mussolini’s Racial Laws which stripped Jews of their citizenship and which barred them from education and much employment.
Protesters in Rome responded to an appeal from the left wing cultural association, ARCI, to sign a petition protesting this racial onslaught on the Roma by putting their finger prints on it.
The urgent task facing the Italian left and social movements is to build a mass campaign in defence of the Roma and immigrants who face harassment by the police and attacks from Northern League “vigilantes”. Millions of people uphold the tradition of the war time anti-fascist resistance and can be won to opposing the return of racial laws which, eight decades ago, had murderous consequences.