Italy’s Muslim communities confident new government will protect religious freedom

ROME: Islamic communities in Italy say they do not expect any negative attitude towards the country’s more than 3 million Muslims from the new right-wing government that will be formed after Sunday’s general election and are “looking forward” to working with their new cabinet in the Regarding the freedom of religion guaranteed by the constitution.

Now a concrete change in the leadership of the country is expected. The extreme right, led by Giorgia Meloni, leader of the party of the Brothers of Italy (Fratelli d’Italia), traditionally committed to the country’s right-wing, won solid majorities in both branches of parliament.

It is almost certain that Meloni will be asked by President Sergio Mattarella to form a new government in mid-October.

She will then become Italy’s first female prime minister and lead the first far-right government since World War II.

The new leadership is expected to crack down on illegal migrants more severely than previous governments, but is expected not to change Italy’s traditionally good stance on the Middle East and the Arab world.

Italian political analysts also point out that the new cabinet is unlikely to show a hard face at the country’s Muslim population, especially since the Lega (Lega), Matteo Salvini’s xenophobic and anti-migrant party, performed poorly in the elections. The league will still be part of the majority but will have a much less powerful voice.

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“We are absolutely confident that any Italian government will respect the Constitution, of which freedom of religion is a fundamental principle. We expect that the new government will respect the rights of Islamic communities,” Yassine Lafram, president of the Union of Islamic Communities of Italy, told Arab News.

Lafram said for Muslims in Italy: “There are still many problems, from Islamic cemeteries to the need for a law regulating the building of places of worship for all religions.”

He also expressed his desire to sign a formal agreement between the Italian state and its Islamic communities soon.

“It is in the interest of the new government that there is full legal recognition of the Islamic communities. It will promote integration,” he said.

“We expect a lot from a government that promises to represent all Italians. Italian Islamic communities cannot be accused of being close to Islamic fundamentalism. We are all citizens of the Italian Republic who feel we are an integral part of Italian society,” added Lafram.

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Andrea Delmastro of the Brothers of Italy told Arab News just after the election results were announced: “Good citizens have nothing to fear, regardless of their religion, as long as they respect the law. And Italy’s attitude towards the Middle East will not change.”

In her victory speech, Meloni struck a moderate note, saying: “If we are called to rule this nation, we will do it for everyone, we will do it for all Italians, and we will do it with the aim of making people better unite (of this country).”

During the election campaign, Die Linke warned that Meloni could push Italy alongside Hungary and Poland into Europe’s illiberal bloc, fight against diversity and agitate against Brussels.

They cited their previous statements, such as a 2017 speech in which Meloni said the mass illegal immigration to Italy was “planned and intentional,” carried out by unnamed powerful forces to import low-wage workers and expel Italians.

“It’s called ethnic substitution,” Meloni said at the time, echoing the far-right conspiracy theory of the “big replacement.”

She also said Italy “cannot think of Islamic cemeteries in a country where there are not civilized cemeteries even for Italians in several parts of the country.”

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More recently she has often spoken of “good integration” and “mutual respect” in a country where “the law has no religion and must be respected regardless of the belief of the citizen”.

In defense of her rhetoric, people close to Meloni say she takes a tough stance on migrant traffickers and encourages integration as long as those who come to Italy share and respect national values ​​and laws.

The main points of Meloni’s political manifesto on immigration, Delmastro said, include “fighting all forms of anti-Semitism, Islamic fundamentalism and irregular immigration; the orderly management of legal immigration flows together with the promotion of the social and professional integration of legal immigrants; and the blocking of ships to prevent human trafficking in agreement with North African authorities.”

Imam Izzedin Elzir, former President of the Union of Islamic Communities in Italy, stressed that Muslims in Italy “are a non-partisan community and we want to add value to the country.

“We await attention from the government tasked with implementing the constitution, particularly in relation to freedom of religion. I believe that together we can do a good job. Governing is different from campaigning.”

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