Italy: 'No to teaching of Islam in schools', says minister

Roma, 19 October (AKI) - Italy's interior minister Roberto Maroni from the anti-immigrant Northern League party said he would not back a proposal to teach Islam in Italian schools to improve integration.

"The Northern League is absolutely against the proposal of an hour of Islamic religion in Italian schools," Maroni told the commericial TV programme Mattino 5.

The proposal was put forward by the deputy minister of economic development Adolfo Urso.

"While the hour of Catholic religion represents an entity, the Church, which has a hierarchy and contains clear, well defined values that can be conveyed, Islam on the other hand is a completely different case," Maroni said.

"The imam can freely interpret the Koran, there is not a series of tenets, there is not a clear message to convey...If the proposal served to improve integration, we would be all in agreement, but this is clearly the wrong way to do it," Maroni.

In September, the Vatican said that religion in Italian schools should have the status of a school subject. The Vatican's Congregation for Catholic Education expressed the view in a letter sent to the Italian Bishops' Conference (CEI).

The head of the CEI, Mons. Angelo Bagnasco quickly rejected the idea of an 'Islam hour' in schools.

"The hour of Catholic religion teaching is based on the Concordat, because that is part of our history and culture. I do not think that the proposal to teach Islam for an hour has anything to do with this rational and renowned reason," said Bagnasco.

The 1929 Concordat (also known as the Lateran treaty) established Catholicism as the religion of Italy.

The CEI also said that the teaching of different religions could generate religious relativism and discouraged it because it could cause "confusion" or "damage".

Italy's public schools offer an optional "religion hour" in which students may study the Catholic religion or other faiths.

However, under a 2007 ruling, only students studying Catholicism were able to receive academic credit.

In mid-August, an Italian court ruling said that high school students may no longer receive academic credit for studying Catholicism, sparking criticism from conservative centre-right politicians, including the education minister, Mariastella Gelmini.


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