Italy has ratified an agreement with Qatar that gives the Gulf state an official platform to fund organizations and build mosques, a move that divided politicians in Rome, according to a report published in the Emirati newspaper, The National.
The warnings raised that ratification of the agreement would allow Doha to use its resources to expand its influence in Italy, especially the Muslim Brotherhood.
Italy was in the midst of a financial crisis when it signed the last agreement with Qatar in 2012, and is now suffering under the government of Giuseppe Conte, the Italian Prime Minister, which will push this deal to the fore again as the Italian economy faces collapse amid the coronavirus pandemic.
This deal included the Qatari financing of Italian organizations such as the "Union of Islamic Groups and Organizations" that operate as an umbrella for the mosques affiliated with the Muslim Brotherhood in the country.
According to the Qatar Papers, a book that documents Qatari money transfers to Europe, tens of millions of euros have been channeled to mosque building projects and community organizations in places like Milan, Bergamo and Sicily.
The book cites letters of fundraising for Italian projects from Doha-based al-Qaradawi, who has spoken on Italian television since 2006 about his dreams of "invading" Rome, and at the time al-Qaradawi said, "This will be done through preaching and ideology."
Italian opposition parties responded to the decision of the leftist coalition to enable Qatari funding for religious bodies, Arabic language learning centers and cultural exchanges, as Giovanbattista Vesoulari told a session of the Senate that Doha's relations with the Muslim Brotherhood and its links to radicalism and terrorism mean that this deal is not a "cultural exchange" package.
"Parliament opens the doors of Italy to Islamic fundamentalist propaganda funded by Qatar and the Muslim Brotherhood to pollute us through student and university exchanges and the possibility of paying scholarships and the possibility of establishing university cooperation and teaching the Arabic language in Italy," Vesoulari said.
Matteo Salvini, of the right-wing Lega Party, also spoke out against the measure, and Salvini highlighted the ties between Qatar and Iran in his speech.
Isabella Roti, a senator hostile to the deal, expressed fears of Qatar's growing influence and said Qatari officials were coming "to Italy, not to fund charities."
The vote came as Italian politicians sought answers to Qatar's involvement with Turkish intelligence in the liberation of Italian hostage Silvia Romano, and an aid worker held by al-Shabaab in Somalia.
Last year, there was a violent reaction to news that former Prime Minister Matteo Renzi met with the leadership of Qatar to discuss the purchase of Roma Football Club.
As influential columnist Alessandro Sallusti echoed in the newspaper Il Giornale “Warnings of Qatar's papers about his country,” Sallusti wrote: “Doha also funds the Muslim Brotherhood, Qatar Charity is the fund in which Doha funds mosques and cultural centers abroad.”
"A wide area is given to Youssef al-Qaradawi, who in 2006 supported the duty of Muslims to invade Rome without bombs, but with evangelization and cultural influence, and based on this situation, Qatar continues its heavy activity in Italy and finds support in various political forces," Salousti added.