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Old August 22, 2007, 06:53 AM
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Mosque conversion stopped by Roman authorities

Rome halts mosque conversion plan
By David Willey
BBC News, Rome

Rome says it has many applications for religious centres
Authorities in Rome have refused to allow a building next to a Catholic church to be converted into a mosque.
The planned mosque, in a densely populated and multi-ethnic quarter in the centre of the Italian capital, was supposed to open next month.

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

Local right-wing politicians have applauded the police action.

Biggest mosque

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

The quarter houses people of widely different ethnic origins.

They are already 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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