Italy: Minister backs referendum on minaret ban

Rome, 2 Dec. (AKI) - Italy's interior minister Roberto Maroni on Wednesday said he had "no objections" to a referendum proposing a ban on mosque minarets in the country. "Someone has proposed carrying out a referendum here: I have no objections," said Maroni.

Maroni is a member of the anti-immigrant Northern League party and junior coalition partner of Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi's government.

"I consider the referendum, a key expression of popular sovereignty, and although it could be done by passing a law, I think this is less important. It is important to recognise what people want," said Maroni.

Earlier this week a conservative Italian minister also from the Northern League, Roberto Calderoli said the country should hold a vote to reaffirm its Roman Catholic roots.

Italy has approximately 1.2 million muslims, making it the second largest after Catholicism.

Another minister, Roberto Castelli, also from the Northern League suggested adding the Christian cross to Italy's national flag.

At the weekend a majority of Swiss voters endorsed a ban on minarets in the country.

More than 57 percent of voters, as well as 22 out of Switzerland's 26 cantons voted in favour of the ban, despite the government's opposition to such a move, saying it would harm the country's image.

The Vatican and other international leaders from France, Turkey and Iran, and an independent United Nations expert on religious freedom all condemned the Swiss move

Switzerland's Muslim population is estimated to be at 400,000 or 5.2 percent of the total population. However, there are only four minarets in the entire country.


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