- Title: Rome Muslims pray at Colosseum to protest unofficial mosque closures
- Date: 21st October 2016
- Summary: MAN AT FRIDAY PRAYER MAN WITH HAT BAREFOOTED MUSLIMS WITH HEADS BOWED IN PRAYER
- Embargoed: 5th November 2016 15:11
- Keywords: muslim mosque prayer Italy colosseum
- Location: ROME, ITALY
- City: ROME, ITALY
- Country: Italy
- Topics: Society/Social Issues
- Reuters ID: LVA00354Y86DJ
- Aspect Ratio: 16:9
- Story Text: Hundreds of Muslims prayed next to Rome's Colosseum on Friday (October 21), saying their places of worship had been closed and calling on the city government to protect their religious rights.
Worshippers knelt on prayer mats and tarpaulin on the pavement metres away from the travertine amphitheatre. Some held placards reading "Peace" and "Open the mosques".
The gathering was organised by the Dhuumcatu Association, a Bangladesh-focused Islamic immigrants' rights group which says police have closed several improvised mosques in recent months, depriving many of Rome's 100,000 Muslims of a place to pray.
The sound of the call to prayer echoed around the Roman ruins as the Muslims knelt to pray next to the ancient Arch of Constantine.
There are only a handful of official mosques in Italy, meaning most of the more than 1.6 million Muslims who live in the country, worship in private houses or in hundreds of makeshift Islamic cultural centres.
"They have closed with a lock (the mosques), they need to open our places. If they do not open they need to give me a place to pray" said Bangladeshi woman Mita Aktr as she took part in the prayers.
Controversy has been stoked around the idea of mosques in garages, as Islamist attacks in Europe in recent years have increased fears in some quarters of potential radicalisation.
Right-wing Roman politician Giorgia Meloni of the Brothers of Italy party, who came third in a mayoral election this year, has called for controls on Muslim worship, including obliging prayers to be conducted in Italian.
The Dhuumcatu Association says Rome's city administration has expressed willingness to resolve the situation, but there are no regulations governing their places of worship.
Rome's city government declined to comment.
Italy, a predominant Catholic country, is home to the fourth largest Muslim population in Europe. But with the influx of migrants, with one in three believed to be of the Muslim faith, these figures are now beginning to change.
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