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Italie et islam. La relation Eglise(s)-Etat et les programmes de déradicalisation

  • October 2017

In the last decades, the changes within Italy’s cultural-religious scenario have been dramatic. The presence of Muslims and Islamic groups in the country is the best example of these changes, although they do not involve only Islam and Muslims. Nevertheless, given its specificity (especially when compared to religions that have long been present in the Italy) and its complex history, Islam highlights the most striking aspects of the country’s neo cultural-religious pluralism : it indicates and signals the pluralisation of Italian society. Islam has, in other words, become the discursive substitute for religious and cultural pluralism, which implies other sensitive matters that are, in a way or another, correlated to this religion : gender roles, clothing codes, family models, the relationship between religion and politics, the role of religions within a democratic system, the rights and duties of the major religion and of religious minorities. In the light of these issues, Islam has become the most extreme example of ‘other’ religions ; this term usually understood as ‘other than traditional ones’.
Together with the issues related with the emergence of transnational radicalism and terrorism, all of this may also explain the various activities that, in relation to the role and the place of Islam in the society, have taken place in recent years in Italy. Here are some important examples of that.

In the fist half of 2016, Italy’s Interior Ministry, Angelino Alfano, established a Council for relations with Italy’s Muslims : an advisory body which the Italian Government hoped would help Muslim minority groups to integrate better. Made up of academics and experts in Islamic culture and religion, the Council was tasked with coming up with proposals and recommendations on integration issues based on respect and cooperation.
One year later, the new Interior Ministry, Marco Minniti, and representatives of Italy’s nine major Muslim organizations signed an agreement called ‘National Pact for an Italian Islam, expression of an open and integrated community, adhering to the values and principles of the Italian legal system’. This pact aimed at creating a registry of imams and to require them to preach in Italian. In return, the Italian Government vowed to ‘facilitate the road’ toward the official recognition of Islamic organizations in Italy (see Preparativi all’intesa con l’Islam ?). The pact was in fact hailed as a first step toward the normalization of the situation of Islam in Italy (see Il Patto nazionale per l’Islam italiano : verso un’intesa ?). However, this pact has been criticized for creating a double standard : for example, no other religious group has been asked by authorities to hold sermons in Italian.

On May 2017, a training course called ‘Servizio di formazione degli esponenti delle comunità religiose presenti in Italia che non hanno stipulato intese con lo Stato’ started in Ravenna (Northern Italy), teaching imams and other religious leaders the basics of the Italian Constitution. Supported by the Italian Ministry of Interior, this course was part of efforts made to improve integration in the country. Their participants were non-Catholic religious leaders who come from non-EU countries but plan to work in Italy. The principal aim of the course was to create a climate of tolerance through the teaching of the rights and duties related to Italy’s democratic legal system. Participants have therefore learned about constitutional principles, including freedom of religion, freedom of speech, and the right to have a place of worship and practice religion.

In October 2017, the University of Bari (Apulia Region) opened up a one-year Master-Course in ‘Preventing radicalization and terrorism for supporting interreligious and intercultural integration policy’. This course aims at providing students with an interdisciplinary approach to the knowledge of the international phenomenon of religiously inspired terrorism and its evolution. In this perspective, it gives students the competences concerning investigation systems and methods of fighting terrorism, focusing the attention on the relationship between rule of law (on the one hand) and emergency and security (on the other). The course also aims at training members of the police forces, the armed forces, the judicial power, as well as researchers, experts in the national security, lawyers, journalists, university graduates in juridical, economic and humanist subjects. The study program involves legal, political and strategic issues, with a specific focus on Islam. It also includes the survey and risk prevention techniques, also investigating sociological and media profiles of the terrorism phenomenon. It must be noted that this course was born of guidelines for a de-radicalization program, established by Bari’s Public Prosecutor with the collaboration of some academic experts, on the basis of the ‘preventive measures’ related to the Italian Antimafia Code.
During the same period, the University of Siena and the University of al-Qarawiyyin in Fez (Morocco) signed a cooperation agreement that includes an exchange of faculty members, researchers and students and the creation of specific courses aimed at the formation of professional profiles capable of operating in a pluralist milieu. The coordinator, journalist Carlo Panella, explained that, at the University of Arezzo, a course of educational sciences had been already started, designed to train multicultural operators and ‘social educators specializing in anti-radicalization methodologies’ : the synergy with the Moroccan university also aims to create a scientific-pedagogic centre specialized in the prevention of radicalization, he added.

In the end, these initiatives try to fill gaps left by the Italian legislator, whose attitude on questions related to Islam seems based on considering the Islamic organizations as ‘other’ than the denominations more compatible with the traditional system of State-denominations relationship established in Italy until now. This system has been determined through the peculiar implementation of Articles 7 and 8 of the Constitutions and the 1159/1929 Law (which was, in fact, approved during the Fascist regime). Hence, since Islamic groups are different from the traditional creeds, public and private actors tend to promote new pathways. Those presented here are some of the most recent and significant examples.

9 janvier 2018