Emirati leader meets Tokyo governor

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

ROME: Islamic communities in Italy say they do not expect a negative attitude towards the more than 3 million Muslims living in the country from the new right-wing government to be formed after Sunday’s general elections, and “look forward” to working with the new Cabinet regarding constitutionally guaranteed religious freedom.

A concrete change at the head of the country is now expected. The far right led by Giorgia Meloni, leader of the Brothers of Italy party (Fratelli d’Italia), traditionally linked to the country’s right, won a solid majority in both branches of Parliament.

Almost certainly in mid-October, Meloni will be invited by President Sergio Mattarella to form a new government.

She will then be the first female Prime Minister in Italy, at the head of what will be the first far-right government since the Second World War.

The new leadership is expected to be tougher than previous governments on illegal migrants, but nothing is expected to change in Italy’s traditionally good attitude towards the Middle East and the Arab world.

Italian political analysts also stress that the new cabinet is unlikely to come down hard on the country’s Muslim population, especially since the League (Lega), the xenophobic and anti-migrant party led by Matteo Salvini, has won bad results in the elections. . The League will still be part of the majority, but will hold a much less powerful voice.

“We are absolutely convinced that every Italian government will respect the Constitution, which includes freedom of worship in its founding principles. We hope the new government will pay attention to the rights of Islamic communities,” Yassine Lafram, president of the Union of Islamic Communities of Italy, told Arab News.

Lafram said that for Muslims in Italy, “there are still many issues, from Islamic cemeteries to the need for a law regulating the construction of places of worship for all religions.”

He also expressed his wish that a formal agreement between the Italian State and its Islamic communities be signed soon.

“It is in the interest of the new government that there is full legal recognition of Islamic communities. This will boost 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 that they are an integral part of Italian society,” Lafram added.

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

In his victory speech, Meloni adopted a moderate tone, saying, “If we are called upon to govern this nation, we will do it for everyone, we will do it for all Italians, and we will do it for the purpose of unite the people. (from this country).

During the election campaign, the left warned that Meloni could push Italy into the illiberal European bloc alongside Hungary and Poland, fighting diversity and campaigning against Brussels.

They cited his past remarks, such as a 2017 speech in which Meloni said large-scale illegal immigration to Italy was “planned and deliberate”, carried out by powerful anonymous forces to import labor. work at low wages and drive out the Italians.

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

She also said that Italy “cannot think of Islamic cemeteries in a country where there are no civilized cemeteries, even for Italians, in several parts of the country.”

More recently, she often spoke of “good integration” and “mutual respect” in a country where “the law has no religion and must be respected whatever the beliefs of the citizen”.

To defend her rhetoric, those close to Meloni say she takes a tough stance on migrant smugglers and encourages integration, as long as those who come to Italy share and respect her national values ​​and laws.

The main points of Meloni’s political manifesto regarding immigration, Delmastro said, involve the “fight against all forms of anti-Semitism, Islamic fundamentalism and irregular immigration; the orderly management of legal immigration flows as well as the promotion of the social and professional inclusion of legal immigrants; and the blocking of ships to prevent human trafficking, in agreement with the North African authorities.

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

“We expect attention from the government, which is supposed to implement the Constitution, especially on religious freedom. I believe we can do a good job together. Governing is different from campaigning for votes.