Italy moves to reopen mosques after historic deal

The Italian government has signed a landmark agreement with leading Muslim organizations that will allow mosques and Islamic centers to reopen as part of an easing of the country’s coronavirus lockdown. (Reuters/File Photo)
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Updated 16 May 2020

Italy moves to reopen mosques after historic deal

  • Muslim leaders sign landmark pact as part of lockdown easing

ROME: The Italian government has signed a landmark agreement with leading Muslim organizations that will allow mosques and Islamic centers to reopen as part of an easing of the country’s coronavirus lockdown.
The protocol was signed at an official ceremony in Palazzo Chigi, the prime minister’s office, as part of Italy’s efforts to reopen all places of worship, including Catholic churches, from May 18, provided sanitary and social distancing measures are enforced by religious authorities.
Mosques, prayer rooms and Islamic centers have been shut, along with other places of worship, since the lockdown began on March 9.

The agreement is the first official act signed by an Italian government with Muslim representatives in the country, and is viewed as a milestone on the road to full legal recognition and acknowledgement by the state.
The protocol was signed by Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte, Interior Minister Luciana Lamorgese, and representatives of four Islamic organizations — Coreis (Italian Islamic Religious Community), the Great Mosque of Rome, Union of Communities and Islamic Organizations in Italy, and the Italian Islamic Confederation.
Yahya Pallavicini, president of Coreis, described the agreement as “a historic event.”
The protocol establishes “a model of interdisciplinary collaboration,” and confirms “equal dignity and opportunity for prayer in places of worship for Muslims in Italy,” he said.

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Mosques reopening

The protocol was signed at an official ceremony in Palazzo Chigi, the prime minister’s office, as part of Italy’s efforts to reopen all places of worship, including Catholic churches, from May 18.

Muslim associations representing the Pakistani, Senegalese and Bengali communities in Italy also praised the agreement.
The protocol follows several weeks of negotiation between the religious community and the Interior Ministry over safeguards for the reopening of mosques.
Yassine Lafram, president of the Union of Islamic Communities in Italy, told the Italian prime minister that mosques will remain closed for Eid Al-Fitr regardless of the agreement.
“We will not open our mosques and Islamic centers before May 24 when Ramadan will be over. We confirm this decision with great regret, but we believe it is a matter of responsibility,” he said.
Lafram said that lengthy discussions between Muslim communities had led to this “painful decision.”
With social distancing a key measure in the fight against the coronavirus, the organization had expressed concern that the country’s small and medium-sized mosques might not be able to enforce safety measures.
In a statement, the organization said: “We renew our call to all communities throughout Italy to adopt our guidelines, aimed at prevention and safety. We are persuaded that our worship places are not yet sufficiently protected and are too risk-exposed to reopen (during Ramadan).
“We invite Islamic communities belonging to our union to keep mosques and prayer rooms closed until after May 24, not to celebrate the collective prayer of Eid Al-Fitr, and to raise awareness and prepare for reopening in complete safety.”
Hassan, a Moroccan grocery shop owner from Rome’s San Giovanni neighborhood, said he agreed with the decision.
“Our mosques are definitely too small. We had better wait a few days,” he said.
“It will be painful not to celebrate Eid Al-Fitr together in our prayer room as we do every year. We have not met there during Ramadan this year because of the lockdown.
“But all the people I talk to agree that we have to wait. Coronavirus is deadly. We had better stay vigilant. Hopefully we will get together soon. And we will celebrate life and harmony,” he added.


Interpol warns of ‘alarming’ cybercrime rate during pandemic

Updated 29 min 24 sec ago

Interpol warns of ‘alarming’ cybercrime rate during pandemic

  • Cybercriminals are increasingly using disruptive malware against critical infrastructure and health care institutions
  • There was also an increase in the spread of fake news and misinformation which sometimes itself conceals malware

LYON: Global police body Interpol warned Monday of an “alarming” rate of cybercrime during the coronavirus pandemic, with criminals taking advantage of people working from home to target major institutions.
An assessment by the Lyon-based organization found a “significant target shift” by criminals from individuals and small businesses to major corporations, governments and critical infrastructure.
“Cybercriminals are developing and boosting their attacks at an alarming pace, exploiting the fear and uncertainty caused by the unstable social and economic situation created by COVID-19,” said Interpol Secretary General Juergen Stock.
“The increased online dependency for people around the world is also creating new opportunities, with many businesses and individuals not ensuring their cyberdefenses are up to date,” he added.
The report said cybercriminals were sending COVID-19 themed phishing emails — which seek to obtain confidential data from users — often impersonating government and health authorities.
Cybercriminals are increasingly using disruptive malware against critical infrastructure and health care institutions, it added.
In the first two weeks of April 2020, there was a rise in ramsomware attacks, in which users have to pay money to get their computer to work again.
There was also an increase in the spread of fake news and misinformation which sometimes itself conceals malware, said Interpol.
From January to April, some 907,000 spam messages, 737 incidents related to malware and 48,000 malicious URLs — all related to COVID-19 were detected by one of Interpol’s private sector partners, it said.
The agency warned the trend was set to continue and a “further increase in cybercrime is highly likely in the near future.”
“Vulnerabilities related to working from home and the potential for increased financial benefit will see cybercriminals continue to ramp up their activities and develop more advanced and sophisticated” methods, it said.
Once a COVID-19 vaccine becomes available, Interpol said, “it is highly probable that there will be another spike in phishing related to these medical products as well as network intrusion and cyberattacks to steal data.”