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 grand mosque in Rome.
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
On December 12, an Italian court has invalidated
the illegal deportation of Mamour, saying his statements merely
represented personal views