Italy to monitor mosque funding

Rome, Italy - The Italian government plans to introduce strict checks on the sources of foreign money used to build mosques in the country.

Italy's interior minister is considering setting up a foundation which would monitor foreign funding for religious buildings and mosques.

A similar system already exists in France.

Italy now has 1.2 million Muslims, making Islam the country's second biggest religion after Catholicism.

Giving alms is a religious obligation in Islam.

But some foreign charities distributing funds in Europe have been accused of supporting extremist groups.

Italian Interior Minister Giuliano Amato says he has little control over charitable money coming into the country, especially from foreign governments, who are helping to fund the building of mosques.

"There's something I don't like about it," he said. "In the future, I want to understand who is financing what."

He is advocating a foundation to monitor funding, based on the French model, within which the government would have some say.

Muslim welcome

Mr Amato, like his predecessor, wants to limit the influence of foreign Islamic groups that he believes are trying to get a foothold in Italy through fringe organisations.

The minister has promised that Islamic schools will also be more closely monitored than they were in the past to make sure they respect national standards, especially where teachers are concerned.

The proposals have so far won cautious support from leading Muslims in the country.

Yahya Pallavicini, one of the 16 members of Italy's Islamic council, set up to advise the government, said he welcomed the move.

"It will help to protect the law-abiding majority," he said.

"If everything is handled transparently, then there is no space left for ambiguous or hidden funding by these ideological organisations."