A translated Italian media report highlights responses of the Muslim Brotherhood in Italy to the Interior Minister’s appeal for an accord to regulate relations between Italian institutions and Islamic religious organizations in Italy. Such an accord has been under discussion since at least 2002 and similar accords exist between the Italian government and other religious faiths. According to the report, the major roadblock hindering such an accord is the difficulty in determining single representation for the Italian Muslim community. In general, the Brotherhood in Italy supports the idea of an accord, probably hoping that this will be a vehicle for their increased legitimacy. A previous post has reported on comments by Roberto Hamza Piccardo, a leader of the Unione delle ComunitÃ ed organizzazioni Islamiche in Italia (UCOII), the largest and most important Islamic organization in Italy associated with the global Muslim Brotherhood. In a letter to the Italian Interior Minister, Mr. Piccardo demanded that representation be determined by “democratic process”, probably fearing that the government would attempt to hinder Brotherhood participation. The media report cites further comments by Mr. Piccardo who appears, in principle, to welcome the accord:
An accord, as envisaged by the Constitution, would be welcome. Naturally, our community has no hierarchy, no clergy, and no vertically-structured representation, so it will not be easy to forge an accord, as it was in the case of the Jewish community and of the Catholic Church. It would be preferable to see the law on freedom of worship, which is still stranded in parliament, being approved.
Another Italian Muslim group however, objects to the participation of the UOICC:
The COREIS, or Italian Islamic Religious Community, however, does not want the UCOII to join the group negotiating an accord with the Italian state: “The institutions must negotiate only with those who are uncontaminated by ideological or extremist games, only with moderate Islam,” explained Imam Yaha Sergio Pallavicini, who is a member of the Interior Ministry’s Islamic Council.
Ali Abu-Shwaima, identified in the report only an Emir of a local mosque but who is also an officer of the Brotherhood’s Federation Of Islamic organizations in Europe (FIOE), also supports the accord stating:
There will be no more clandestine mosques if there are agreements on authorized places of prayer. We have been awaiting an accord with the state since 1978,” he said.
Finally, the head of the Muslim World League, an important Saudi body that is part of the Muslim Brotherhood global network, also expressed his support for “clear and transparent relations” with Islam stating “There are many, too many improvised and unprofessional imams…” and calling for more surveillance of the “tiny minority of extremists.”
(Source: BBC Monitoring International Reports September 18, 2007 Tuesday “Italian Muslims respond to interior minister’s call for accord with Islam” Text of report by Italian newspaper La Repubblica on 15 September [Report by Zita Dazzi: “‘We Are Split; an Accord Is Difficult'”] Source: La Repubblica, Rome, in Italian 15 Sep 07)