Hundreds of Muslims protested plans to close alternative mosques with a mass prayer Friday outside the ancient Colosseum in Rome.
The protest comes as Italian authorities close down more and more makeshift mosques around the country.
“Friday prayer is very important to us so today we have come to the Colosseum,” Sikdir Bulbul told Reuters. “Otherwise where else can we pray?”
Italy is home to 1.6 million Muslims but only has four official mosques. Practicing Muslims must instead gather in garages and other private residences to pray.
Interior Minister Angelino Alfano and other right-wing politicians called for the closure of “mini mosques in garages” in August, arguing they increase the risk of radicalization and future terror attacks around the country.
“We feel people are pointing the finger at us,” Francesco Tieri, a Muslim convert who represents a number of Islamic groups, told Agence France Presse. “There is no political will to recognize that we are here and that we are a peaceful community. We are forced to rent places to pray, which for us is like breathing air — if we can’t do it we die.”
The Italian region of Liguria recently passed what media call the “anti-mosque laws” to block new constructions. (RELATED: Italian Region Passes ‘Anti-Mosque laws’ To Stop Constructions)
Construction proposals must meet “architectural and dimensional congruity with the general and specific characteristics of the Ligurian landscape” to be allowed. Communities further get the ability to hold referendums on whether a planned place of worship should be allowed at all.
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