Italy highest court throws out \'anti-mosque\' law
ROME - Italy's highest court on Wednesday nullified a regional law in Lombardy dubbed "anti-mosque" by critics, easing regulations on the construction of places of worship in the country's north.
The law, drawn up by the anti-immigrant party Northern League and voted in at the start of 2015, tightened rules regarding all religious buildings, but was widely believed to target the wealthy region's Muslim community.
It required new places of worship fit into the "architecture of the Lombard landscape" and be voted in by local referendum. It also stipulated the religion in question be officially recognised by the state -- which Islam is not, because it lacks a signed agreement with the government.
According to the interior ministry, at the start of 2015 there were 1.6 million Muslims in Italy, 26.5 percent of whom lived in Lombardy, which boasts the country's oldest and second largest mosque.
While there are over 700 places of Islamic worship in the country, there are only six official mosques, with many Muslims instead praying together in make-shift areas in a growing phenomenon the ministry dubs "garage mosques".
The high court has yet to publish the motives of its ruling, but the government had previously denounced the law as going against "the exercise of fundamental rights of religious freedom" and the principle of equality among citizens.
"The left cheers Allah Akbar," Northern League hardliner and the region's president Roberto Maroni said on Twitter, while Matteo Salvini, the League's president, posted his "congratulations to the Islamic court" on its ruling.