The Italian government has established a council to foster relations with the Muslim minority living in the country.
Italy’s Interior Minister Angelino Alfano on Tuesday established a council for relations with the country’s Muslims, an advisory body the government hopes will help the minority to better integrate.
The council, made up of academics and experts in Islamic culture and religion, will be tasked with coming up with proposals and recommendations on integration issues based on “respect and cooperation”, the ministry said in a statement.
Alfano said he wanted “a community with all those who – while from different countries, cultures, religions and traditions – intend to contribute to the peaceful development and prosperity of our country, in full compliance with our laws and our Christian and humanistic tradition.”
The body will keep the government in the loop on Islamic issues in Italy and help shape “Italian Islam,” the statement added.
According to demographic experts, there are over 1.5 million Muslims living in Italy, mostly immigrants and a small number of converts, Morocco World News reported.
Italian media stated that the new board will maintain open communication with the Italian government on Islamic issues and the unification of “Italian Islam.”
In March 2015, plans to build Europe’s first Islamic University for 5,000 students in the city of Lecce, in the southern region of Puglia Salento, did not succeed.
According to Italy’s The Local news website, Giampiero Palladini, the Italian-Muslim convert who planned the construction of the higher-education establishment, was faced with Lecce’s local authorities that feared the “character” of the city would change with a Muslim university.
Interestingly, Alfano, who is also head of Italy’s New Centre Right (NCD) party, sparked controversy following the Paris terrorist attacks of November 13, 2015 when he said the Italian government would “crack down” on illegal mosques.
According to the same source, it is not easy for Muslims to obtain government permits to open places of worship. Italy has only four official mosques for more than 1.5 million Muslims.