ROME, 14 June 2003 — The imam of one of Europe’s largest mosques in Rome was suspended yesterday after delivering a firebrand sermon justifying attacks against the enemies of Islam. Abdel-Samie Mahmoud Ibrahim Moussa, 32, came under fire for allegedly hailing Palestinian bombers as “martyrs of Islam” and calling for a holy war against Israel during last Friday prayers.
Earlier this week, the Paris-based Simon Wiesenthal Center wrote a letter to Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi asking him to expel the imam. On Thursday, Interior Minister Giuseppe Pisanu said he was considering taking action against “preachers of violence” found in Italy’s mosques.
The mosque’s board bowed under pressure from Italian government officials yesterday by ordering the removal of Moussa. According to reports, Friday prayers were led by a more moderate imam from Egypt yesterday.
Pisanu, a member of Berlusconi’s conservative Forza Italia party, has said he has reasons to believe that “Middle East spies and Islamic terrorists” are finding protection in the country’s mosques. Since the Sept. 11 attacks, Italy has emerged as one of Europe’s most important recruiting centers for terrorists.
The sacking of the imam came as Italian police discovered and safely removed explosives aboard an Alitalia passenger plane at an airport in eastern Italy after receiving an anonymous tip-off.
The small package of explosives, which had been tucked under one of the seats, was destroyed in a controlled blast after it was found aboard the aircraft at Ancona airport on Thursday afternoon. Police were examining passenger lists yesterday while forensic experts tried to determine the exact nature of the explosives.