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Islamic Schools in Italy

ITALY: MUSLIM COMMUNITY SPLIT OVER ISLAMIC SCHOOLS

Having immigrated to Italy from Morocco, Mustafa Ghumar was afraid his family would lose touch with its cultural roots. So when authorities in Castel di Casio near Bologna agreed to allow members of Ghumar's local mosque to hold Sunday classes for the community's children in a municipality-owned hall, he immediately signed up his 10-year-old daughter, Hind. "They were offering to teach her Arabic and the Koran," he says. "But soon Hind told me she no longer wanted to go to the school. When I asked her why, she replied: 'The teacher has told me I must wear a headscarf, and has warned us that we should not come back if we do not cover our heads because that's what Islam orders women to do."

Ghumar says he is bitterly disappointed by the experience which he says illustrates the difficulty in finding moderate Islamic teachers in Italy.

"They told us they would teach the children Arabic. Instead they would preach the Sharia [Islamic law] to them, forbidding the girls to sit with the boys and warning them that wearing skirts, painting their nails, wearing makeup was not allowed."

Immigration is a relatively recent phenomenon in Italy; only in the 1990s did significant numbers of foreigners, many of them from Muslim countries, start flowing into the country. Numerically Islam is now Italy's second religion after Roman Catholicism. Religious run schools, be they Catholic, Jewish or Protestant, are allowed to operate in Italy providing they follow the state curriculum.

However, most of the country's Islamic schools are operating without authorisation and
as Italy grapples with the threat of terrorist attacks they have come under scrutiny as possible hotbeds of extremism.

While most of Italy's growing Muslim community is in favour of Islamic schools they are split over how these schools should be run and what they should teach.

Osama al-Saghir, the deputy president of the Young Moroccans of Italy association, argues that most Islamic schools steer clear of extremism.

"Until a few years ago, I was a student at the schools organised by the mosques in the Rome suburbs of Ostia and Centocelle. It was a real pleasure for me to go there every Sunday where I could learn Arabic, a language that allows me to speak with people from the Middle East whether they are Muslim or Christian," he says.

"We must avoid a general panic which would lead us to shut down all the Islamic schools. What we are asking is that the mosques respect the laws of the land and to spread a culture that places Muslims within [Italian] society."

For this reason al-Saghir says he welcomes the controversial decision by the Milan city council on Thursday to order the closure of an Islamic school which for a decade has been operating illegally. Situated in a building near the Italian financial capital's city-centre, the school, which caters for 500 mostly North African students on a daily basis, does not employ state-certified teachers nor does it offer courses approved by Italy's education ministry.

""I'm against this school because it teaches Muslim youngsters to remain in a cultural ghetto," al-Saghir says. "During numerous visits to the school I met students who live in Italy but it's as if they are living elsewhere in a parallel society."

For Yasin Belkasem, another leader of Italy's Moroccan community - the largest immigrant group in the country - the Italian state should intervene to ensure that even the mosque-run weekend schools are not advocating radicalism.

"I taught for three years in Morocco, where it was impossible to stray from the teaching programme set by the Education Ministry. Here [in Italy] unfortunately there are no rules and each mosque does what it wants."

Belkasem recalls a visit to mosque-run Sunday school in Castel Fiorentino near Florence. Again, as in Castel di Casio, classes were held in a hall set aside for this purpose by the local authorities.

"There the teacher was a long-beared man dressed up like a Taleban. He was teaching the children a chapter from the Koran, Sutra 101: The Disaster.

"The teacher recited the first few verses:
'What is the disaster?

And what shall make thee know what the disaster is?
The day when men shall be like scattered moths;
and the mountains shall be like flocks of carded wool!
And as for him whose balance is heavy, he shall be in a well-pleasing life.
But as for him whose balance is light, his dwelling shall be the pit of hell.
And who shall make thee know what it is? 8 It is a burning fire!

"The teacher compared the 'mountains' in the Sutra, to the twin-towers of New York's World Trade Centre, drawing the conclusion that the September 11, 2001 attacks where the fruit of divine will."

Posted by zorkmidden on Sep 12, 2005 6:00 am

1 comment

#1 Allen at 1:53 pm on Dec 13, 2017

Immigration is a relatively recent phenomenon in Italy; only in the 1990s did significant numbers of foreigners, many of them from Muslim countries, start flowing into the country. Numerically Islam is now Italy's second religion after Roman Catholicism. Religious run schools, be they Catholic, Jewish or Protestant, are allowed to operate in Italy providing they follow the state curriculum. 70-348 Exam Dumps

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