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Row after two Muslim students exempted from studying Dante

Row after two Muslim students exempted from studying Dante

Parties slam 'crazy' move, 'insult to our culture'

ROME, 24 May 2024, 15:23

ANSA English Desk



A middle school teacher in the northern city of Treviso has exempted two Muslim students from studying Dante on the grounds that it is a religious work that clashes with their Islamic faith, local dailies reported Friday, sparking a major row on integration and an alleged insult to Italian culture.
    The Divine Comedy, with its visions of Hell, Purgatory and Heaven, is steeped in medieval Christianity and the Prophet Mohamed is one of the historical figures placed in the Inferno.
    The teacher asked the families of all the students who are exempted from religious studies on religious grounds if they also wanted to be exempted from studying the greatest Christian poet, or greatest poet of any kind, and two families said yes.
    Their sons were instead given Boccaccio, one of Italy's other great medieval poets along with Petrarch, to study.
    The case spurred a wave of criticism with centre-left Democratic Party (PD) Senator Simona Malpezzi saying it was "profoundly wrong" to deprive any student of the "deep knowledge of Italian culture that studying Dante brings".
    She added: "Knowing Dante does not take anything away from the children's religious confession".
    The indignation was cross-party with Deputy Senate Speaker Gian Marco Centinaio of the ruling rightwing League party saying "not studying Dante is an insult to our culture".
    League leader, Deputy Premier and Transport Minister Matteo Salvini said "it's demented not to study Dante because some people might get offended".
    League MEP candidate and army general Roberto Vannacci, suspended from duty over a best-selling book slamming gays, feminists, Blacks and other minorities, denying climate change, endorsing the great replacement theory on Muslim migrants replacing ethnic Italians, and blasting woke culture, said "they are trying to destroy our identity." Deputy Lower House Speaker Fabio Rampelli of Premier Giorgia Meloni's rightwing Brothers of Italy (FdI) party said "excluding Dante from the curriculum on request is mad".
    FdI bigwig and Tourism Minister Daniela Santanchè said "we are continuing to be subjugated by Muslims, giving in to their extremist demands".
    FdI cultura pointman Federico Moillicone, chair of the House culture committee, said "the Divine Comedy is universal, and we must resist curricula personalised on religious grounds".
    Back on the left, PD MP Debora Serracchiani also lamented the teacher's decision, stressing that "Dante is an irreplaceable cultural heritage of humanity".
    Irene Manzi, the PD's national schools pointwoman, said "integration is also achieved by studying other cultures," a point made by many critics of the move.


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