By Philip Pullella
ROME, April 29 (Reuters) – As a new centre-right government that has vowed to be tougher on immigration prepares to take office, a new study on Tuesday showed that most Italians have negative views about having immigrants from Muslim countries.
According to the study carried out by the Makno research organisation, and commissioned by the interior ministry, 55.3 percent of those asked said immigration from Islamic countries was more problematic than that from other, Christian, countries.
Only 39.7 percent said Muslims should be allowed to practice their religion and build mosques unconditionally.
Nearly 10 percent were firmly against allowing Muslim religious practices or mosques and the rest posed various conditions, such as reciprocity for Christians in Islamic countries to practice their religion.
On the Islamic side, nearly 40 percent of Muslim immigrants said they found it difficult to respect their religious traditions in Italy while 30.2 percent feared they would lose their culture.
Italy, a predominantly Catholic country which once sent millions of immigrants to the world, is still grappling with how it should integrate immigrants of different cultures, languages and religions.
*Â What a typical Reuters BS line!
More than 17 percent in survey feared terrorist attacks, nearly 25 percent said they believed Muslims were critical of Italians and their culture and 28.2 percent said Muslims were intolerant of Catholicism.
Various parties in the coalition of prime minister-elect Silvio Berlusconi, who is expected to form his government by next week, have vowed to crack down on immigrants.
* Muslim immigrants, that is. Those who create more problems than others. Like these:
Umberto Bossi, the firebrand leader of the anti-immigrant Northern League, took a surprising 8 percent in this month’s national elections and is expected to get several cabinet posts, perhaps including the interior ministry.
One League member, Roberto Calderoli, outraged Muslims with past antics such as wearing a T-shirt emblazoned with Danish cartoons showing the Prophet Mohammad.
Renato Schifani, a member of Berlusconi’s Forza Italia party, said minutes after he was elected Senate speaker on Tuesday that among Italy’s pressing priorities was to promote only “healthy and regular immigration” and to defend Italy’s “Christian roots”.
According to official figures, there are more than a million Muslim immigrants in Italy but aid groups say the figure is higher.
The attitude of non-Islamic immigrants in Italy, most of them Christians, was just as critical towards Muslims or in some cases even more so than that of Italians.