italian muslim imam gets the boot!

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    Jun. 14, 2003
    Imam who called for "destruction of Islam's enemies" removed from Rome mosque
    By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
    ROME


    The main mosque in Rome has suspended its imam, a week after he delivered a sermon praising Palestinian fighters and calling for the destruction of Islam's enemies, officials said Satu*rday.

    The decision to remove Abdel-Samie Mahmoud Ibrahim Moussa capped a week of debate about the sermon, which was delivered during Friday prayers June 6 and published, in part, on the front page of the Rome daily La Repubblica a day later.

    "Allah, let the Islamic fighters in Palestine, Chechnya and elsewhere be triumphant!" Repubblica quoted Moussa as saying in Arabic.

    "Allah, destroy the houses of the enemies of Islam! Allah, help us crush the enemies of Islam! Allah ensure the victory of the nation of Islam!" the imam said in quotes that were confirmed Satu*rday by Mario Scialoja, head of the World Muslim League in Italy, which is affiliated with the mosque.

    Italy's interior minister, Giuseppe Pisanu, expressed outrage at the imam's call, saying Italy's mosques "must be completely free of preachers of violence, recruiters for holy war and agents of foreign interests in Italy."

    He called for the creation of an "Italian Islam" where its preachers speak Italian, not just Arabic, and respect Italian laws.

    Jewish groups including the Simon Wiesenthal Center urged the imam be replaced and expressed concern for the safety of Italy's Jewish community following what it said was Moussa's "religious validation of terrorism."

    On Friday, the administrative council of the Islamic Cultural Center, made up of the ambassadors of Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, Bangladesh and other Muslim countries, decided to suspend him, Scialoja said Satur*day.

    "The Islamic Cultural Center is officially recognized by the Italian republic," he said in a telephone interview Satur*day. "We cannot allow the mosque to be used to espouse violence the way the young imam did."

    He said the majority of Rome's 90,000 Muslims are "quite peaceful and serene" and didn't share Moussa's message. It wasn't clear what would become of the 32-year-old Moussa, who is Egyptian and was named to head Rome's main mosque five months ago by Cairo's Al-Azhar university, Sunni Islam's highest authority.

    Another Rome imam presided over Friday prayers this week but Scialoga said it would take some time for a permanent replacement to be named.

    Scialoja said he didn't believe the incident would affect relations between the Italian government and Italy's Muslim community, particularly "because the Islamic Cultural Center acted very promptly" in removing Moussa.

    "The center has regular contact with the Interior Ministry and we are on very good terms," he said, noting that the center often participates in Vatican-sponsored inter-religious conferences as well.

    Pisanu has previously voiced concern about incitement coming from Italy's mosques and called for dialogue between the largely Catholic country and Islamic moderates.

    The Simon Wiesenthal Center praised the decision to remove Moussa and urged the Italian government to "cut off all funding for any religious institution that aids and abets the cause of terrorists."

 
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