Guardian: Arles 2014: Nicolo Degiorgis lifts the veil on Italy’s Islamophobia

Nicolo Degiorgis contrasts the peace of prayer with the tension of politics in his award-winning photobook, capturing Italian Muslims forced to pray in garages, gyms, and shops

A sports stadium in Trento province, north-east Italy, used by Muslims as a makeshift place of worship. Poor babies, I practically in tears over their misfortune.

This year’s author book award at the Rencontres d’Arles photography festival went to Nicolo Degiorgis for Hidden Islam. With a foreword by Martin Parr, the man who matters most in the world of the photobook, it arrived in Arles with buzz attached from the recent photobook festival at Bristol co-curated by Parr.

Hidden Islam looks at how and where Muslims worship in Italy, a country with an estimated 1.45 million believers but only eight official mosques. In the north of Italy, where Degiorgis comes from, the rightwing party, Lega Nord, has risen in popularity lately due to its hard line on immigration and anti-Islamic views.

Muslims pray in an Italian supermarket: from the award-winning book Hidden Islam

In Treviso, where local worshippers purchased a building, they have been prevented by the local authority from turning it into a mosque despite the right to worship being freely enshrined in Italian law.

They gather weekly to lay down their prayer mats in front of the building – prayer as a kind of protest.

It is against this increasingly polarised political and social backdrop, that Muslims have begun worshipping in makeshift buildings across the country. This is the subject of Degiorgis’s book: the often anonymous buildings that now have a kind of secret life…

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Outdoor mass prayer is intensely irritating.  It is like dogs marking off their space, it says, “This is ours” and if you do not like the look of all our butts sticking up in the air, then build us mosques.

“Because we are here to stay and we will display our butts in your face until you fork over the mosques.”

The wretched book is not available on Amazon, hence I assume it is not English–a small mercy if that is the case.

Yet the introduction is in English and if you are a masochist, you can read it here.

How would it go over in a Muslim country — say Saudi Arabia — if Christians were to hold outdoor mass prayer.  We all know the answer, so take stupid book and get lost.  You are traitor to your own people.

For the super-masochists among you, PressTV has picked up the story and even has a video, here.

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