“Consider these facts. In Italy the right to worship, without discrimination, is enshrined within the constitution. There are 1.35 million Muslims in Italy and yet only eight official mosques in the whole country. … This shortage of places to worship is particularly acute in North East Italy as the right wing Lega Nord party campaigns on an anti-Islamic platform. this region, consent to build a new mosque is never granted.”
That is how Martin Parr introduces a wonderful book that documents the places of worship improvised by the Muslim population of NE Italy, a large proportion of whom are migrant workers. The book is called Hidden Islam and is made up of a series of photographs by Nicolo Degiorgis of the places of worship housed in lockups, garages, shops, warehouses and old factories.
The book’s design is intriguing. Each page is folded. On the outside of the fold is a simple black and white photo of a shop, warehouse etc together with the building’s postcode. There is no clue on the outside of what goes on in the inside. To find that out, we have to go to the inside of the fold – and there we find vibrant photos of Friday Prayers. For example, the stark exterior photo of a garage (postcode V136015)
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A wonderful book which tells a disgraceful story in a disarmingly simple way.
My own morning prayers took me to Ezra 6 in the Hebrew Scriptures (Old Testament). That situation offers such a contrast to what is happening in Italy and in so many other places where the rights and needs of religious minorities are ignored. The scene there is the rebuilding of the Temple in Jerusalem with the support of the imperial government. Royal revenues were to be used to provide whatever was necessary “so that they may offer pleasing sacrifices to the God of heaven, and pray for the life of the king and his children.” (Ezra 6:10).
It seems obvious to me that religious people need to gather to pray, to pray even for those who persecute them, and to pray for the welfare of the city. Religious landmarks in our cities and on our skylines are reminders of our vocation as children of God. They should be there for all our citizens.