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Italy: Vatican accused of helping radicals by backing Islamic hour in schools

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  • Zafar Khan
    Vatican accused of helping radicals by backing Islamic hour in schools John Hooper in Rome Saturday March 11, 2006 The Guardian
    Message 1 of 1 , Mar 12, 2006
      Vatican accused of helping radicals by backing Islamic
      hour in schools

      John Hooper in Rome
      Saturday March 11, 2006
      The Guardian


      The Vatican has disconcerted Italian politicians - and
      some of the Roman Catholic church's most senior
      prelates - by endorsing a proposal by radical Muslims
      for a weekly "Islamic hour" in schools with a strong
      Muslim presence.

      "If in a school there are 100 Muslim children, I don't
      see why their religion shouldn't be taught," said
      Cardinal Renato Martino, a minister in the Vatican's
      government, the Roman Curia.

      The speaker of the Italian senate, Marcello Pera, who
      has launched a movement for the defence of Europe's
      Christian values, said the suggestion was "the
      diametric opposite of any kind of attempt at
      integration". In a note posted on the internet, he
      said it "tended, on the contrary, to reinforce the
      idea of an autonomous Muslim community inside the
      Italian state".

      Several commentators reacted by calling for an equal
      degree of freedom for Christians in Muslim countries.
      The archbishop of Milan, Cardinal Dionigi Tettamanzi,
      a candidate for the papacy last year, said religious
      freedom was "the greatest of all liberties". The call
      for an Islamic hour was among the first products of a
      new Islamic Council, a consultative body set up last
      year to improve relations with Italy's Muslim
      inhabitants who now account for almost 2% of the

      Cardinal Martino's idea won backing from two parties
      with a strong Catholic component: the National
      Alliance, which grew out of Italy's main neo-fascist
      party, and the Democracy and Freedom party. The
      Vatican is known to be deeply concerned about the
      spread of tensions between Christians and Muslims,
      especially since the riots that followed the recent
      publication of cartoons depicting the prophet

      What worried many observers was the way in which
      Cardinal Martino, head of the Pontifical Council for
      Justice and Peace, appeared to be offering support to
      radical Muslims while undermining moderates.

      There have been growing calls in recent years for the
      authorities to provide backing to Muslim
      representatives ready to speak out against terrorism
      and fundamentalism. Mr Pera said a meeting of the
      Islamic Council this week had resulted in a resounding
      defeat for the extremists. A document was adopted that
      condemned terrorism and faith hate and endorsed gender

      The Islamic hour, by contrast, was one in a string of
      demands tabled by a group close to the Muslim
      Brotherhood. Other proposals included the censorship
      of school text books.

      A spokesman for the group which in Italy represents
      the World Muslim League said it would have been better
      if the cardinal had proposed an hour in which children
      studied the history of all religions.

      The influential Islamic affairs commentator of the
      newspaper Corriere della Sera, Magdi Allam, wrote:
      "Before thinking about the Qur'an in schools, we ought
      to be taking care to reaffirm Italy's national
      identity, meaning language, culture and shared

      More about Italy at:
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