In a document setting out the priorities for Milan’s central Zone 1, the local urban planning committee has asked city hall for a mosque.
In a document approved by the committee with a majority vote, the predominantly left-wing borough council states it has taken note of “the need to guarantee places of worship dedicated to every religion in the historic centre”, but also of “the absence of a space expressly dedicated to the Muslim faith.”
The request is one point in a list of planning priorities, such as making use of city properties at present not being used, or the provision of trash compactors for local market places. The president of the committee, Mattia Abdu, whose father is Egyptian, said the list represented local requirements which are becoming ever more urgent, but that they are “not ideological “.
Since it election, Milan’s centre-left administration has expressed support for the Muslim community’s wish for its own place of worship. Mayor Giuliano Pisapia stated recently that the city is prepared to make a space available, as long as the religious group wishing to use it can afford to finance the building work. “I think there will be a place of worship for Muslims by 2015,” he said, “although I don’t know whether it will be a temporary structure or one to stand the test of time.” This was interpreted in some quarters as a hint that a temporary mosque could be built in or close to the Expo 2015 grounds, whereas this new request by Zone 1 councillors asks specifically for a place of worship in the very central borough.
The centre-right parties in opposition have promised battle. Riccardo De Corato of the far-right Fratelli d’Italia party said a mosque could simply not be built in time for Expo 2015, or even within the mandate of left-wing mayor Pisapia, particularly since building work is going to be stopped to give priority to Expo preparations. And there is absolutely no room for a mosque in the city centre; one might consider a marquee structure in the suburbs, he said, but even that would first need to be put to a referendum. And the Lega Nord party has already put up gazebos in the city to collect signatures for a petition for a referendum on the mosque.