An Imam’s call: Need to integrate immigrants into European society

Francesca Astorri
Francesca Astorri - Special to Al Arabiya English
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The integration of new generation of immigrants in Italy is now considered an integral part of combating terrorism, enhancing social peace and implementing economic policies to fight poverty.

“Imams should facilitate the integration of a new generation of immigrants of the Islamic community”, Salah Ramadan El-Sayed, Imam of the Mosque of Rome (the largest mosque in the Western world) and Professor of Islamic Studies at Al Azhar University in Cairo, said to Al Arabiya English.

“It’s important to give sermons in the language of the country in which you live, without isolating the Muslim community. I always deliver my sermons in Arabic and in Italian so that everyone can understand”, said Elsayed, who is of Egyptian origin but is fluent in Italian, having attained academic distinction at Al Azhar University in Egypt as well as La Sapienza University in Rome.

According to Elsayed, Imams should facilitate integration also by supporting dialogue, conferences and meetings between Muslims and non-Muslims. There are around 2 million Muslims in Italy today, majority of which are originally from Morocco, Egypt and Tunisia.

Extremism and terrorism are political evils that have nothing to do with religion, El-Sayed said. (Francesca Astorri)
Extremism and terrorism are political evils that have nothing to do with religion, El-Sayed said. (Francesca Astorri)

According to Pew Research Center’s study, the Islamic community in Italy is growing and is estimated to top 3 million by 2030.

In 2016 over 360,000 migrants arrived by sea from North Africa to Italy and over 134,000 landed on its shores in just the first nine months of 2017, according to the International Organization for Migration’s data.

These figures are making immigration and integration two important subjects in Italy’s public debate. For this reason, the Italian Parliament is now discussing the introduction of the ius soli law, which would grant Italian citizenship to those born in Italy to foreign parents.

Immigrants’ children

“I am in favor of the ius soli law, it’s a solution to support integration” Elsayed said. Many key personalities, including Pope Francis, have expressed their support for the introduction of the ius soli law that is going to be voted in the Italian Parliament this autumn.

The public debate around Islam in Italy is quite inane, as articles and commentary about Muslims mainly veer toward issues of terrorism and women’s rights. “Extremism and terrorism are political evils that have nothing to do with religion, as Islam calls for peace and prohibits even the thought of spilling blood” said El-Sayed, adding that terrorism can’t be defeated only by enforcing security measures.

“To combat terrorism we need social and cultural solutions as well as economic policies aimed at fighting poverty” concluded El-Sayed.

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