Italy looks at controlling new mosques

A conservative party in Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi's coalition government presented legislation Wednesday to limit the building of new mosques, calling them "political places" used to spread hatred for the West.

The law would require an investigation of Islamic groups' financing and a local referendum before the government would give out building permits for mosques.

The Northern League, an anti-immigration, separatist party dominant in northern Italy where many of the country's one million Muslims live, cited the Madrid train attacks as an example of the kind of extremist action it hopes the new law will help prevent.

Federico Bricolo of the Northern League said mosques in Europe aren't simply places of worship but centres where terrorists are recruited and anti-western sentiment whipped up.

The party's proposal said the new law would "help regulate the presence of communities with cultures historically antithetical to ours."

"The mosque is a political place and is symbolic of a civilization that has run a 1,400-year long path in antithesis of western culture," Bricolo said.

Islam is the second largest religion in the country, after Roman Catholicism.

In the northern city of Milan, security forces have arrested several imams for preaching religious hatred in recent years.

Three years ago, the U.S. Treasury Department referred to Milan's main mosque and cultural centre as "the main al-Qaeda station house in Europe."