Tamer Abul Einein, IslamOnline.net, December 28, 2004
Despite right-wingers and xenophobes, the year 2004 can be dubbed as the “year of integration” for the Muslim community in Italy, though they desperately need a recognized union to unite their efforts against daunting challenges ahead.
It is also partly thanks to several positive stances taken by the Italian government of Silvio Berlusconi, who has been keen on making no room for religious discrimination or bigotry, in addition to encouraging the Muslim integration into society as the best way to nib “radicalism” in the bud.
The teaching of Islam in state-run schools has been a welcome addition that gave the country a bit more atmosphere.
Hijab is in no way an odd thing to wear on the streets of Italy, unlike many other European countries, France in particular.
Interior Minister Giuseppe Pisanu always cites the story of his veiled mother, who insisted on taking on the headscarf till her death, when the issue of hijab-donned Muslim women is raised.
More and more, the number of mosques in the capital Rome has risen to some 400 in 2004 and halal slaughterhouses and restaurants have increased across the Catholic country.
Islam, however, has not been yet recognized as one of the official religions like Judaism and Buddhism.
The government, on the other hand, adopted a zero tolerance with imams it dubs “radical”, deporting those who it regards a mouthpiece of violence or religious hatred.
Senegalese-born imam Abdel Qadir Fadlallah Mamour had been deported “for disturbing public order and being a “danger to state security” after expecting attacks on Italian troops serving in Iraq.
On December 12, an Italian court has invalidated the “illegal” deportation of Mamour, saying his statements merely represented personal views