Maymouna Abdel Qadar has become the first Italian Muslim woman wearing the hijab or headscarf to run for local elections. Abdel Qadar, who is of Palestinian descent, is running in the central city of Perugia – the elections will take place on June 6th and 7th. She is running for Perugia’s communal council for the Sinistra e Liberta coalition, which is made up of mainly socialist, anti-war, and secular parties. “Though being the first veiled Muslim woman that has ever run for elections in Italy, until now I have received a positive response from the people, who have also appreciated my choice, and look at me as a novelty of the local political scene,” said Abdel Qader. Maymouna is a political science graduate of the University of Perugia, and the daughter of Mohammed Abdel Qader, the imam of Perugia. She is also one of the founders of the Young Italian Muslims association. She has stated that her objective is to represent Italy’s second generation of Muslim immigrants in Italy – what she calls “the new Italians.”
Prominent Italian Muslim convert to Islam, Hamza Piccardo, says his 25-year old son was forced to withdraw as a conservative candidate for the upcoming June elections, because of his religion. “My son has been discriminated against because he is a Muslim,” said Hamza, about his son Gabriele Piccardo. He added: “Setting aside the affection I have for my son, what has happened is the result of very serious discrimination against an Italian citizen, which has an entirely religious character.” Hamza, the former secretary of Italy’s largest Muslim group the UCOII, said his don was due to run as a candidate for the conservative People of Freedom party, and wanted to contribute to Imperia’s development. He argues that his son’s campaign made no references or allegiances to mosques or the Muslim community, but the anti-immigrant Northern League was responsible for Gabriele’s demise as a candidate. Italy’s Northern League party is know as having strong anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim sentiments, but specifics about how the league may be connected to Gabriele Piccardo’s political hopes are not known at this time.
Thousands of mourners took part in an emotional funeral Mass for victims of the earthquake in the central Italian region of Abruzzo that left 290 people dead and 28,000 homeless. A representative of the Italian Muslim community, Mohamed Nour Dachan, participated in the funerals. Dachan appealed that all the mourners be “united in brotherly live,” and was met with applause. Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi was also in attendance of the service, which was lead by the Vatican’s second highest official, Cardinal Tascisio Bertone, and was broadcast live on national television.
The director of Rome’s Grand Mosque is urging mosques across Italy to hold their Friday prayers for the victims of the devastating earthquake in central Italy, which killed at least 278 people, injured several thousand, and left around 28,000 homeless. “I am asking the imams of all of Italy’s mosques to follow our example and to organize prayers for the victims of the earthquake that has struck Abruzzo,” said Abdellah Redouane. “It is important for Muslims to show solidarity with the earthquake victims and demonstrate their wish to contribute to the greater good of society,” Redouane added.
Mosques in the southern Puglia region, Tuscany, northern Veneto, and Lombardy regions have taken up Redouane’s appeal. Italy’s Union of Islamic Communities stated that it is ready to help survivors of the earthquake, by donating blood and coordinating with aid efforts.
The president of the organization, Mohammed Nour Dachan, added that the UCOII is collecting funds for victims, and accepting donations in mosques across Italy. “Everything that will be collected at mosques in Italy will be given as charity for the victims of the quake in Abruzzo,” said Dachan. “We feel very close to the joys and pains that affect our country,” said Dachan, who is also the imam of the central Italian city of Ancona’s mosque. Dachan added that despite religious difference, all a part of a “big family” that experiences tragedy together.
An exhibition in Rome opened this week, commemorating Muslims who saved Jews during World War II. The aim of the exhibition is to “fight all the violent and radical tendencies that have unfortunately emerged in the name of religion and Islam in particular,” said Khalid Chaouki, director of Minareto.it.. The Italian Muslim Youth Association is organizing the exhibit. Among those credited with helping Jews escape arrest and transfer to concentration caps include two Bosnian Muslims, three Albanians, two Turks, and one Iranian.
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Prominent Italian Muslim Khaled Fouad Allam is joining a protest against the building of a mosque in the central Italian town of Siena. “I am against the building of the mosque, not because I believe the faithful should not have the right to a place of worship but because it is premature to have mosques without controlling the imams,” said Allam. Allam is a former member of the Italian parliament, and joins centre-right Forza senator Gaetano Quagliariello to oppose the mosque. Quagliariello has stated that imams should follow a multi-disciplinary training like that of the new program offered by the Catholic Institute in Paris.
Muslim women’s groups in Italy will commemorate International Women’s Day on March 8th by discussing rights issues. An event entitled ‘A free woman in a free society’ will be held in Milan on March 9th, and include a discussion on Italian, Muslim women’s personal experiences of dealing with integration, and feature representation by several Italian-Muslim organizations. Among them will include Young Muslims of Italy, Association of Muslim Women of Italy, and the European Forum of Muslim Women. The event’s organizer, Sumaya al-Barq said: “They are women who want to be active, constructive protagonists… Ours has to be a path for both women and men together, a path of shared growth.”