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Last Updated: Wednesday, 22 August 2007, 10:57 GMT 11:57 UK
Rome halts mosque conversion work
By David Willey
BBC News, Rome

Rome says it has many applications for religious centres
Authorities in Rome have blocked work aimed at converting a building next to a Catholic church into a mosque.

The planned mosque, in a densely populated and multi-ethnic quarter in the centre of the Italian capital, had been due to open next month.

Municipal police said the community of Bengali Muslims who were carrying out the construction work did not have the necessary building permit.

The community have said they only want their own prayer centre.

But local right-wing politicians have applauded the police action, saying it is disgraceful to increase the number of mosques in Rome when there is no reciprocity towards Christians in some Islamic countries.

Biggest mosque

The mosque was scheduled to open on the Esquiline hill, one of the seven hills of ancient Rome.

The district houses people of widely different ethnic origins.

They are served by seven Catholic churches, a Buddhist temple, a synagogue, a Zain prayer centre and a Chinese Evangelical church.

Rome also boasts the biggest mosque in Europe, built with Saudi money outside the city centre, about 3km (2 miles) from St Peter's Basilica.

There are another three mosques and three Islamic prayer centres in the city, frequented by the growing number of Muslim residents.

A Rome city official in charge of ethnic policies has supported the opening of the new mosque but says authorities already had previous applications dating back nine years for the opening of new centres of worship from Buddhists, Hindus and Romanian Orthodox believers.

So the new mosque may have to wait its turn.

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