The southern Italian island of Sicily is about to become the proud new owner of a multi-million euro mega-mosque.

The mosque, to be built in the medieval town of Salemi in southwestern Sicily, is being paid for by the oil-rich Persian Gulf Emirate of Qatar. Supporters of the mosque hope it will become a reference point for Muslims in Sicily as well as the rest of Italy.

Construction of the mosque reflects the growing influence of Islam in Italy, which is now home to an estimated 1.5 million Muslims.

In an interview with the Italian newspaper La Repubblica, the mayor of Salemi, Vittorio Sgarbi, said: "Sicily is excited about hosting Islam. Nothing is more important than finding common feelings and beliefs in the different religions that believe in a single God. This is one of the reasons that, just as our cities have Christian places of worship, I think it is important for a mosque to be built in Salemi for citizens of Arab culture and language. History imposes it upon us."

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