Italian ex-minister has ignited a fireball of criticism after parading a pig on the site of a planned mosque in Padua.
ROME - Former Italian deputy Education Minister and far-right Northern League Party (LN) member Mariella Mazzetto has ignited a fireball of criticism after parading a pig on the site of a planned mosque in the northern city of Padua.
"This sort of behavior is not worthy of Padua and I believe that many people here are ashamed," Padua Mayor Flavio Zanonato said in statements carried by local newspapers, cited by Agence France-Presse (AFP).
He said the parade was threatening the peaceful coexistence between Muslims and non-Muslims in Padua.
"At least 7,000 people from Muslim countries live here and we try to live together peacefully," Zanonato added. "This sort of act goes in the opposite direction."
Mazzetto, the deputy education minister in 1994-95 under the former right-wing government of Silvio Berlusconi, together with some 10 fellow LN members have walked a pig on the site of the planned mosque.
"We have 'blessed' the ground that the Padua authorities want to transfer for the mosque," Mazzetto said. "It's a question of defending Italian (Christian) identity."
Muslims do not eat pork and consider pigs and their meat filthy and unhealthy to eat.
In September, LN senator Roberto Calderoli outraged Muslims by calling for a "Pig Day" protest against the mosque construction in the northern city of Bologna.
Last year, protesters left a pig's head at a mosque building site in the central Italian city of Tuscany.
Though adopting the same anti-mosque line, members of Mazzetto's party rejected her way of protesting the construction of a new mosque in Padua.
"The battle in Padua was justified in its intentions, but in its methods, we need initiatives that make people sympathize, this one was wrong," said LN parliamentary bloc leader Roberto Maroni.
Tensions have flared repeatedly between communities in predominantly Catholic Italy over the sites of new mosques to serve a growing Muslim population.
Residents in Genoa protested last September at plans to build a mosque in the town, claiming that the mosque would be offensive because it is near a church.
And most of residents of the town of Colle di Val d'Elsa see a planned grand mosque a symbol of "occupation".
Italian authorities bowed to the pressures of the far-right groups and put off plans for building a mosque in Bologna.
Italy has a Muslim population of some 1.2 million, including 20,000 reverts, according to unofficial estimates.