The Italian businessman behind plans to create Italy's first Islamic university told The Local he is pushing ahead with the project despite authorities in Lecce rejecting a request for a building permit, a decision that was partly due to the current negative focus on Islam and opposition from residents.

The council for Lecce, a province in the southern region of Puglia, turned down the request from Giampiero Khaled Paladini, the president of Confime, a confederation for Mediterranean businesses, to renovate a former tobacco factory to house the university.

Severo Martini, a councillor from the planning unit, said that after evaluating the project the municipality found there was little clarity on how it would be financed.

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