Pope: with Muslims, Francis did not disappoint. After Ramadan a greeting “O’scia” [local dialect greeting] in Lampedusa

July 8, 2013

“It’s a historic gesture,” “beautiful words”: the Islamic Italian community welcomes with enthusiasm and gratitude the words of the Pope, who, now in Lampedusa has addressed Muslims: “to the dear Muslim immigrants who are tonight beginning the fast of Ramadan, the pope also wished them “O’scia” an affectionate greeting in the local Lampedusan dialect which means “my breath.”

“The Pope confirmed expectations that have sustained Muslims and immigrants about openness to dialogue and the promotion of tolerance” says Sherif El Sebaie, Egyptian intellectual and member of the Islamic Community in Turin “this is what we expected with from the new pontificate, and the Pope did not disappoint.”

The president of UCOII (Union of Islamic Italian Communities), Ezzildin Elzir explained “the beautiful words of the pope have meaning and are very important.”

Elzir emphasized “an interfaith dialogue which for previous decades has continued with the Catholic Church” and he also recalls how Pope John Paul II called for “our Christian brethren to dedicate a day of sharing with Muslims, October 27.” “This, I think, is the reality of the Muslim and Christian world: our dialogue, which will continue while we share our spirituality” the leader of UCOII added “Francis’s message is very important at this historical moment, in which the southern shores of the Mediterranean are experiencing very difficult times: people of good will can see this is a very important part in the world, more than 1 and a half billion Christians, have a hand open to dialogue and discussion. I believe that in this way we can overcome the extremists of this or that part.”

Speaking of “historical gestures” the president of the Community of the Arab world in Italy (Comai), Foad Aodi, expressed, on behalf of the whole community “gratitude” for the choice of the Pope to go to Lampedusa. He explained Francis’s gesture “is unique, important and tangible to remember all those invisible dead fallen in the sea of ​​Sicily” and “to remind politicians to field constructive solutions and human resources to help immigrants in distress — for the poor and refugees.” And it was “very significant” to visit  “Lampedusa one day before the start of Ramadan, the holy month in Islam and also for immigrants, refugees and Muslim prisoners who are about to fast even though they are in very difficult conditions.”

The president of the Islamic center in Viale Jenner in Milan, Abdel Hamid Shaari, also appreciated the gesture, “it is a good thing that the Pope will travel to Lampedusa to meet those poor people who pay a high price to get to Italy.” “We thank you and say” he added “that we are open to any dialogue and inter-religious meetings.”

The ‘Islamic-Christian Day’: A Good Chance to Set up a Dialogue

October 28, 2010

The anniversary of the day for the dialogue between Christians and Muslims (it was introduced by Pope Jhon Paul II in 1986) has been celebrated the 27th of October in the Chamber of Deputies. The aim of the event is to build trust and mutual understanding among people, religious and non religious. 100 initiatives of dialogue between Christians and Muslims have been launched. They will take place all over Italy. Many religious communities lament a deficit in pluralism, secularism and religious freedom in the country. The Imam of Florence and President of the largest Islamic association in Italy (UCOII) urges for a new culture that engages, recognizes and respects Others. He also exhorts the Muslim community to avoid any form of isolation and victimization.

Denied a Specific Menu to Muslim Children in a Northern League’s Sponsored School

September 24, 2010

The president of UCOII (Union of Italian Islamic Communities) has written a letter to the President of the Republic denouncing what he considers a serious act of discrimination towards Muslim students in the Brescia area, where the village mayor refuses to accommodate the students’ dietary needs. Currently; the school only serves traditional meals unless a certified medical necessity to avoid pork is proven by the students. The president of the UCOII is requesting of the Republic’s President to: make an official intervention and preserve the basic rights of the Muslims students rights to practice their Islamic beliefs.
A top representative of the Northern League reacted by charging the UCOII of being a fundamentalist organization in the Northern region of Italy. The representative has suggested that the members of UCOII should relocate to other parts of the country. However, the director of the school complex is attempting to subdue the debate by urging mediation and compromise which would exempt Muslim students from having to eat pork.

The islamic third way

The famous Italian historian, Franco Cardini, asks whether the time has come for Italy to examine Islam in a peaceful way, avoiding stereotypes and demagogic strategies. He admits, however, that looking at recent national events, there is not much hope. More precisely, he refers to the new Committee for Islam set up by the Italian Interior Minister, Roberto Maroni (Northern League). This Committee, in Cardini’s view, might be e troubling sign because it includes notorious Italian Islamophobes as well as people that are highly critical of Islam, while excluding UCOII, one of the most important and large Islamic associations in the country. This lack of balance has caused the resignation of the Committee’s president, Mario Scialoja, who is well known as a moderate Muslim leader. As Cardini points out, the integration of the more than 1.5 million of Muslims remains unresolved. Another issue which this historian highlights in this article as in urgent need of conversation and talk, witch might change the way that the Italian public and its politicians has viewed the Muslim Brotherhood, broadly labeled and considered a fundamentalist and terrorist organization, even though it has never been seriously investigated. Emblematic, in this respect, is the fate of Tariq Ramadan, one of the most intelligent and interesting representatives of the Muslim Brotherhood in Europe. He is often considered to be a dangerous agitator and was even prevented from entering France. This is indicative, says Cardini, of our low level of understanding of Islam. He recommends a book, recently published in Italy by two famous Italian Islamologists, dealing with the Muslim Brotherhood in the contemporary world. What emerges from this study is a complex image of the group which, besides supporting certain guerrilla activities, is clearly widening and deepening its social and welfare commitments. The crucial question, then, is whether it will be able to play a leading role in setting up an autochthonous model of democracy in the Arab world, rather than the one favored in the West.

Italy the UCOII’s turning point: “From now on, Imams have to speak Italian.”

Izzedin Elzir, the newly elected president of the Union of the Islamic Communities in Italy (UCOII), has stated that Italian language must be adopted by all the imams. The moderate leader that is also attentive to the interfaith dialogue wants to loosen the traditional tie of its association with the Muslim Brotherhood. He underlined some crucial points; such as the need for transparency and for greater integration by Muslims into Italian society. He also expressed his commitment to make the Italian language the common idiom for the plethora of Muslim communities. His goal is to attain an agreement with the Italian state, which entails funding for Islamic places of worship. He also articulated his position concerning other hot button issues: on the veil, for example, he stated that although he thinks the face should be uncovered, it would be wrong to regulate by law matters that infringe upon freedom of choice. Regarding the knowledge of the Italian constitution and language as the prerequisite for obtaining a resident permit, he claimed that such knowledge is fundamental. He went on to state, that it is important to avoid propaganda but rather cooperate with the institutions and employers to set up workable laws which are able to counteract clandestine practices. Finally, asked on the issue of crucifix in the schools, he highlighted the need for approaches that are inclusive of other cultures.

Italian Muslim organizations call for mosques across country to pray, raise funds for earthquake victims

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.

Muslim group stages events to promote religious dialogue

The UCOII, Italy’s largest Muslim group, is organizing a series of meetings in several cities in Italy in order to promote inter-religious dialogue. Meetings are planned to take place in the eastern city of Ancona, Milan, Florence, and Venice. The series is called Coexistence: A Comparison of Accounts. The Muslim faithful, believe, together with their monotheistic brethren, in a single God. We share with our Christian brothers in particular two convictions: belief in Jesus Christ and in the pureness of the Madonna,” said a statement by the UCOII.

Bologna’s mayor backtracks on mosque; project ‘badly handled,’ says scholar

A controversial project to build a mosque in Bologna has been scrapped, due to lack of agreement from local Muslims concerning two key conditions. The city’s Islamic Cultural Centre failed to reply to a letter laying town two essential conditions for the mosque to go ahead; the city’s councillor, Virginio Merola says this indicated a disagreement with the city council over the project. The city council’s letter asked for (1) a foundation to be set up to ensure transparency over funding for the planned mosque, and (2) that Bologna’s Muslim community distance itself from Italy’s largest Muslim group – the Union of Islamic Communities of Italy (UCOII). While plans for the mosque construction have now fallen through, Bologna’s Islamic Cultural Centre says it remains committed to building the mosque, despite opposition. A former coordinator for the mosques in the Emilia Romagna region, Hasan Giulio Soravia , criticized leaders for failing to break away from the UCOII, the largest Muslim group in Italy. The UCOII has many members that belong to the Islamist Muslim Brotherhood movement, and as such, Muslim projects in Italy have been encouraged to sever ties with the association. However, Soravia remains hopeful, that Muslims in Italy will e able to forge their own Islam that distances itself from the logic of Arab states.

Federation of Italian mosques mooted

Giuliano Amato, Italy’s outgoing interior minister, was expected to unveil a proposed federation of Italian mosques in Italy. The federation is intended to replace the Consulta Islamica, a body set up in 2005 by the Italian government, to represent various Muslim groups in the country. Amato put the Consulta Islamica on hold after several members fro Italy’s largest Islamic group, the UCOII, refused to sign a _charter of values’ in 2007 for Italy’s religious minorities. Under Amato’s proposition, the federation would contain 25 mosques – in addition to the 22 represented and headed by Rome’s mosque – which are linked to the Union of Italian Muslims, led by the imam of Turin. Amato was expected to present blueprints of the plans to journalists last week. It has the support of most members of the Consulta Islamica, who signed the Charter of Values.

Most Muslims are not subversive, says umbrella group

The Union of Islamic Communities and Organizations in Italy (UCOII), Italy’s umbrella Muslim group, released a statement stating that most Muslims in the country are not involved I subversive activities. “UCOII would like to reassure the community that the great majority of Muslims are not involved in any activities that are subversive and against public order and national security” said the organization’s president Nour Dachan. The statement was released in response to recent news stories about police reports on the identification of some mosques as potentially dangerous. Dachan stated that loyalty to respect for law and country are among the absolute priorities of Italian Muslims.