Publish Date:
Wed, 02/01/2017 - 14:03

Italy to train Muslim imams on constitution to 'create climate of tolerance' and fight radicalization

Interior ministry funding courses for preachers from Islam and other 'unofficial' religions. Muslim imams in Italy are being enrolled on courses aiming to “create a climate of tolerance” and fight radicalization by learning about the country’s constitution. The interior ministry is funding the training, aiming at non-Catholic religious leaders and those from other countries planning to work in Italy. It will start in February in Ravenna, a northern Italian city from where an aspiring jihadi foreign fighter was deported to Tunisia last week.

The program is being run with the University of Bologna, whose course director said all religions that have not been officially recognized by the Italian state – including Islam – were welcome to join. Professor Giovanni Cimbalo told La Repubblica: “The aim is to foster a dialogue between religions and cultures, contributing to the construction of a peaceful and non-violent society."

He said the course would respect the diverse denominations within Islam, as well as across Christianity and other religions. Attendees will be taught about the Italian constitution, including freedom of religion and speech, as well as the “rights and duties inherent in our democratic societies”.

More practical instruction will focus on the process of setting up new places of worship, following protests over the closure of makeshift mosques last year.

Despite having an estimated 1.6 million followers in Italy, Islam is not an officially recognized religion and the country has only a handful of registered mosques. With few official places of worship, many Muslims pray in houses and some 800 cultural centers and prayer rooms in the country, but right wing parties have claimed this makes religious sites hard to monitor and increases the risk of radicalization.

The new courses, to be taught at six universities including Pisa and Florence, are part of a €92,000 (£80,000) interior ministry program to improve integration and prevent extremism. It comes amid heightened security in Italy, which has come under the spotlight following revelations the Berlin Christmas market attacker was radicalized in its prisons.

Source: The Independent