CAIRO – Italian officials have expressed solidarity with the Muslim community after a mosque in the Italian city of Rieti in the Lazio region was damaged by vandals who stormed the mosque, destroyed its properties and burnt the Noble Qur’an.
“Unknown people burned the sacred Koran, stole money, destroyed the paintings and writings relating to Islam and turned upside down the place of worship inside the mosque,” Morocco World News cited a report by Italian newspaper Ilmessaggero on Monday, March 18.
The assault dates back to Sunday evening when vandals attacked the Mosque of Peace, located 80 kilometers from Rome, destroying its property and burning copies of the Noble Qur’an.
The mayor of the city expressed his solidarity with the local Muslim community, calling on the city’s officials to “respond collectively to the provocations of those who seek to undermine peace and tolerance in the city.”
The leaders of the local Muslim community in charge of the “Mosque of Peace” through the association “Salsabil” have also denounced the “act of vandalism” that would “undermine the coexistence between different communities on the territory of the province of Rieti,” the same source added.
Italy has a Muslim population of some 1.7 million, including 20,000 reverts, according to the figures released by Istat, the national statistics agency.
The lack of official status means Muslims organizations are not eligible for funding through the Italian law that allows taxpayers to allocate part of their taxes to a religious group of their choice.
Efforts to recognize Islam in Italy, even unofficially, are often slammed by the separatist Northern League.
Plans by Italian Prime Minister Enrico Letta to establish a museum of Islamic art on the banks of the Grand Canal in Venice has also sparked angry reactions from separatist Northern League.
Plans by regional councils to build more mosques have also been slammed.