Freedom of Religion vs Islamophobia: Lombardy’s “Anti-Mosque Law” is Unconstitutional

While islamophobia is on the rise after the carnages of Paris and Bruxelles, recent developments in Italy may foster the confidence in the freedom of religion of European Muslims. In a ground-breaking decision, the Italian Constitutional Court has nullified a regional “anti-mosques law” enacted by the Lombardy Region one year ago, discriminating the Muslim community of this rich and populated area of Northern Italy.

The anti-mosques’ case and the following public debate

The Regional Law (n. 2/2015), adopted on January 27th 2015, established new principles for planning buildings and other structures for religious purposes. Its two articles contained a number of requisites to build places of worships and temples and referred only to religious denominations other than the Catholic Church. This regulation made it extremely difficult to erect religious buildings for all churches but the Catholic Church, particularly for Muslims According to the Regional Government, this regulation was not discriminating, but originating directly from the Italian Constitution’s principles in matters of freedom of religion.

It should be noted that, basically, the Italian Constitution recognizes a system in which all the religious denominations are “equally free” before the law (article 8). Moreover, the denominations may also sign a formal agreement of cooperation with the State, but unlike the Catholic Church which had signed its Concordat in 1929 (renewed in 1984), some other religions settled in Italy have no formal agreement (“Intesa”), particularly Islam. In fact, the Islamic community tried to conclude such a pact, but failed. the most relevant obstacle was the difficulty in determining a single organization that represents all the Muslim communities living in the country ...

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