Islam is not an established religion in Italy and there is only one official mosque in the country, Rome’s Grand Mosque. Politicians from the ruling coalition cite radical imams, polygamy and failure to uphold women’s rights by Muslim immigrants as obstacles to recognizing Islam as an official religion in Italy.
WorksthatWork While the media is abuzz with talk of the large Muslim populations in France, Germany, Holland and England, Islam and Italy are terms not often heard in tandem. Italy is, in fact, home to 1.5 million practicing Muslims. In only two decades, Islam has become Italy’s second-largest religion—a figure that has grown rapidly within the last 10 to 15 years with new waves of immigration from countries such as Albania, Morocco, Egypt, Tunisia and Pakistan, among others.
Ten times as many Muslims live in the country now as compared to the 1990s, and their numbers are set to double again by 2030, boosted by immigration, mostly illegal, from North and Sub-Saharan Africa, the Balkans, South Asia and the Middle East.
Italian Islam is growing fast, but officially, it does not exist. Due to a lack of will from successive governments and divisions within the religious community itself, Islam has never been formally recognised by the Italian state. As a consequence, Muslims may pray, but they may not build mosques.
They worship instead at improvised ‘Islamic Cultural Centres’ in warehouses, shops, supermarkets, apartments, stadiums, gyms, garages and discos.
The country, however, contains a mere eight mosques on paper, only one of which holds official state recognition. In 2008, a bill was introduced to block the construction of mosques in much of the country, meaning the millions of Muslims in Italy have had to find other spaces in which to gather and pray.