Mosque Relocated: A Turning Point
After 20 years of discussions between the Islamic community and the city of Florence, it has just been announced that the mosque will be re-located to a former bank near Piazza dei Ciompi, only a stone’s throw from the community’s current place of worship, in Borgo Allegri.
Whilst the relationship between the community and the city of Florence has predominantly been one of harmony and tolerance, Imam Elzir explains, in December and later in April, the group of worshipers faced the imminent eviction from their current mosque, due to the property owner’s wish to terminate the current contract with the community.
A complex and unsettling situation, the community were supported throughout the controversy by the Court of Appeals, the Prefecture and the Police Headquarters, with further guidance and assistance by Sara Funaro, the welfare councillor, and Marco Carrai, the honorary consul of Israel.
The community’s right to a place of worship has always been defended by city officials; their position is that eviction would have irrevocably scarred Florence’s reputation as a place of acceptance, dialogue and secular values. The city’s religious leaders also publicly supported this position, pointing out that secularism is not about the indifference of institutions to religious communities, but rather about protecting people’s right to place of worship, while enabling constructive and peaceful communication.
This is ‘a historic turning point’ for the city of Florence and its Islamic community, said Dario Nardella, the mayor of Florence. Made possible entirely by donations by Muslims and not, for 1.2 million euros, the former bank is in the process of formalising the sale. The purchase represents a new chapter for the religious group, with full ownership of their mosque bringing a sense of security.
The date for relocation, originally due to take place on June 8, has since been deferred; the mayor hopes to prevent eviction from the current mosque at all costs.
The Archbishop Giuseppe Betori, in response to the news, is overjoyed to see the case resolved and the right to freely profess one’s religious faith honoured and upheld. The new mosque symbolises more than just success on the part of the Islamic community, but on the part of all religious groups living in Florence. In Funaro’s words, it represents ‘a victory for the whole city.’ (sophie holloway)