Italian Islam in Mainstream TV: Either Invisible or Visibly Othered
Mohammed Hashas 1 March 2016

It seems that the mainstream Arabs-and-Muslims worldwide are fighting on many fronts. Their jihad [i.e. effort] is directed to many fronts, and they are still “suspected” of being a walking bomb that may explode at any time, and anywhere. They are simply dehumanized. The fact that they want to enjoy life, travel, be free, get jobs, get married, and so on, is ignored. They exist just to terrorize the world! Muslims are fighting their internal side of darkness, represented by dictators and tyrant rulers; they have shown that by going out to the streets in the so-called Arab Spring revolts; decades before that, they fought colonialism, and before that they sought independence from tyrant Caliphs. They are also fighting the darkness and terrorism of Daech, the Arabic term Arab media and increasingly some media in the West uses to refer to the “Impossible/Intolerant State” of ISIS. We forget that the Kurds are Muslim, and many Kurdish brave women are fighting to defend their territories; these female defenders of their lands are not pictured as Muslim; they are only “Kurds”! When Tunisians demonstrate for positive change, their demonstrations are read as “Islamic-reference-free”; when bloody attacks take place, the democratic citizen eclipses, and “Muslim” or “Islamic terrorism” becomes the title, and “Muslims fighting terrorism” is hardly there – as if being a democrat and Muslim at the same time is impossible. In his speech at the United Nations Security Council, the anthropologist Scott Atran said that what inspires terrorists are dreams of glory and esteem, and not so much the Quran (The Guardian, 15/11/2015). Olivier Roy put it this way: there is an “islamization of radicalism” among the disillusioned and nihilist youth that join Daech (Le Monde, 25/11/2015). This islamization of radicalism feeds well the selective and biased “Western” mainstream media.

Millions of Muslims have escaped, some willingly migrated from, their Islamic societies to Europe, to live a decent life, to enjoy it, its lights and clean streets, and also to contribute to it, but now they are all “suspected” as dis-loyal to their European states. They have grown up in Europe, speak the languages of Europe, abide by the law as all others, and serve in the armies of Europe, still when Daech attacks, the mainstream European wo/man and media believe Daech first, and not the Muslim citizen who was born, educated, and now works in Europe. Europe, it seems, needs an Other, and it “knows” where to find it. The European Muslim appears tired of proving that he (or she) can be a European of Arab or Turkish or Pakistani descent, and also Muslim. The intellectual dynamics going on outside Europe (and the general West) seem at times hyper-active compared to European intellectual dynamics. The walls they have built around them were so strong that appear impenetrable by new ideas of multiculturalism and openness to possible worlds out there. Italy is a case here, on which I make some reflections.

On the night of Friday 13 November 2015, I was invited by an Italian-Moroccan friend to dinner, but his Italian friend, a man in his 70s, called him, and invited him for dinner. My friend apologized because he had already invited me. The old-man insisted and told him to bring his friend with him; so I joined them. We had a lovely dinner in his house, in the center of Rome. The weather was lovely. Dinner was amazing. We talked about arts, photography, history. Since I was new to the group, I asked the old man about where he is from, since he talked of his love for the Arab culture, for Morocco, etc. He told me he is originally from Spain, from Granada. His ancestors were Spanish Muslims of the 15th century. They were obliged to move to Sicily in the south of Italy because they were exiled from Spain after 1492. When he told me this, I remembered another professor of history who told me earlier that he had recently discovered that his ancestors come from the medieval Sicily when the Arabs passed by. These are among the various examples of Italian friends, especially from South, who speak of their multicultural past with pride, a pride the centrist modern nation state sometimes erases for ideological reasons – and this applies to all centrist states, however regional or federal they may be in their political system. On that Friday after dinner, I went with my friend for a drink in a café in front of piazza Barberini. Some 20 minutes after, an Italian friend texted me about Paris tragic events, and so did a French-Moroccan friend from Strasbourg. And you can imagine what the debate around our drink that night might have been about! I went home, switched on Italian TV and world media streaming, and slept late that night. Il Giornale newspaper headlined its following day issue (14/11/15), with a strong title “Bast–di islamici”, the translation of which is easy to guess.

The Invisible Mainstream Arab-Islamic World

I have been in Italy for about 6 years, and have never come across a TV programme on Arab-Islamic culture, history, ideas, cuisine, or arts. There is no TV programme that frequently discusses Middle Eastern issues. There is no Arab world that is just some kilometers away from Sicilia, though Italians travel to the touristic Arab-Islamic world. This tourism remains silenced, and is not brought back to the mainstream TV to share with the majority of Italians. The very orphan programme I have seen on the Arab-Islamic world was on Ulisse – a TV programme on history, culture and arts – and it gave one session to Islamic artistic contribution to Granada and Sicilia. Even the so-called “Arabs who do not want to democratize” have been watching Al Jazeera since 1996, and they see serious debates on TV on worldwide issues, which the Italian TV industry lacks – to make this sweeping generalization.

The “only” stories that are reported on TV from the Arab-Islamic world are those related to blood and terrorism. That part of the world becomes only blood and terrorism in the mind of the viewers that have little time to know more, outside the TV time they have. Italian TV reflects a cultural no-care attitude. This ethically careless attitude from a world economy and nation state of international fame is fed with, first, journalistic lack of involvement in world affairs, including the ones occurring in the Mediterranean that Italian geography inhabits, and, second, is fed also with a cultural contentment with what one is, which gradually impacts politics, and feeds the narrative of populists. This carelessness nourishes non-humanist attitudes to world affairs that need global solidarity. Minorities and religions that are discriminated against may most probably not attract attention when calamities touch them. This is happening with Muslims. When Paris bloody event took place, mainstream media sympathized with the French – which is great. But solidarity as a value is not ideological. It is an ethical and humanist value. If we show it to some and not to others, then there is something wrong with our understanding of human values that we claim to defend. That is why there was an anger among some Muslims and non-Muslims when Beirut, and before it Egypt and Baghdad, etc. were attacked by ISIS a day before Paris attacks, and Western mainstream media hardly cared! Global solidarity is missed – and with it is missed the human look at the Other.

The Visible Islam: The Case of the Ex-Muslim Magdi Allam

Muslims are suspected even when they distance themselves from terrorism. During Virus and L’Arena TV programmes, the presenters Nicola Porro and Massimo Giletti respectively, were very provocative of their Muslim guests this week. The first clearly stated his “suspicion” of the existence of mainstream moderate Muslims, and the second kept using his “us” to distinguish himself from “them” when questioning in an inspector’s tone his Muslim guest who kept stressing that he too is Italian, but seemingly was not convincing to the presenter; he was also asked to clearly answer whether the Italian Constitution or the Quran comes first! Moreover, the Muslim guest was asked to report blood-thirsty believers and terrorists within their community, as if blood-thirsty believers write of their crime plans on their forehead! This kind of questions shows that whatever happens of terror has to be excused for by the rest of Muslims, even though these Muslims are its first victims in Arab-Islamic lands and elsewhere (if not physically then through Islamophobia, Islamoparanoia, and discrimination).

Italian mainstream media appears to give more space to populist and right wing voices than to scholars of Islam. On Virus Speciale, Matteo Salvini, the leader of Lega Nord political party, known for his anti-immigration, summarized in anti-Islamic attitude, came out on TV to say that the books of the internationally reputed anti-Islam journalist-writer Oriana Fallaci (d. 2006) should be distributed among the masses to awaken them to the threat that is around them. Salvini tries to distinguish his views, by saying that he is not against Muslims per se, or against Islam per se, but he soon mixes terms and puts all in one basket (of violent extremism and suspicion that moderates, or better simply Muslims, exist)!

Magdi Allam, an Egyptian-born Italian journalist and politician, is also often on TV, and his case requires a pause. Magdi converted in 2008 from Islam to Christianity, at the age of 56, and now he brings this to TV in his debate with Muslims about Islamic terrorism. Since he knows Arabic, and is an ex-Muslim, he quotes the Quran to show that Islam is violent and has no space for mercy and tolerance, let alone liberal democracy. The point mentioned above – about the invisibility of the Arab-Islamic world – is now being instilled more into the mind of the viewer with the testimony of a convert who has left Islam. The fear Allam nurtures in society is based on defamation – and no need to say that he has been charged of defamation against the Islamic organization UCOII by Milan Tribunal since 2011, retributions of which he has not paid yet. Some points should be raised here to ponder over.

One, Allam now does not see hope in Islam, since it teaches violent extremism. With all respect of his conversion, one may wonder if the discourse he uses against Islam and Muslims now does not contradict all his being a good Italian citizen since the time he arrived to Italy and got its citizenship until the moment of his conversion? Following his own arguments against Islam and Muslims, the fact that he converted at a late age can bring “suspicion” to his loyalty to Italy before his conversion. If his religion then, Islam, was so violent, why did not he revoke it a long time ago? Should we say that he was blood-thirsty all those 56 years when he was Muslim, and only realized that late? Should we then suspect his loyalty to Italy because he was Muslim, and only when he converted his Italian love was confirmed? Of course not, we cannot argue this way; he was known among his admirers as a moderate and integrated Muslim; but why is he now depriving Muslims of this right to be “moderate” – despite the reservations we have about the term? Or, shall we suspect his intellectual capacities of understanding religions and the difference between peace and violence, which he realized only at the age of 56? We had better not to suspect him this way, and try to find other reasons.

Two, before he converted, we are assuming Allam lived a normal life of human relations, especially that he was a journalist and had to meet people, and later on as a politician, a member of the European Parliament for Italy as well. His ethics of socializing, work, and also having family and bringing up kids responsibly, what was their reference? Was it the religion he still believed then, Islam, or something else? Since he was Muslim, that meant that that religion played a “good” role, minimally or maximally, in his life (work, family, socialization, etc.), however secular or liberal he might have been. The fact that he did not convert till the age of 56 means that, overall, his religion for that period was not a problem for him. He seems to have lived a normal life with it, though we know he was against political Islam; but this is normal, so many Muslims are against political Islam too, especially its violent section. The point I want to make is that Allam seems to be speaking against himself, against his own ethics, against his own life that he lived for 56 years at least. His discourse seems full of weaknesses and contradictions. A religion that he has lived with for 56 years cannot be cancelled from his life even when he converts. Reasons for Allam’s attack on Islam and Muslims may be found elsewhere in his own personal history, and should not be mixed with the overall interpretation of this religion.

Three, Allam cannot be a legitimate source of religion in this case, not because he has converted, but because of the ethical manners that accompany his pronouncements and defamation, which even his new religion, to my knowledge, does not encourage. Conversion to new ideas or religions aims at elevating the soul, mind, and heart, for individual and public good. And since we are more concerned with the public effects of this religious discourse, it seems that Allam’s conversion does not serve public good at all – as to his individual good, that is up to him to measure and it remains a personal matter.

Allam’s public harm is immeasurable for two reasons, based on his use of religion. The first reason is that he has defamed the mainstream Islamic ethics of interpretation that scholars of Islam agree on. His use in public TV of verses of the Quran without contextualization and without bringing what conditions them into full consideration distorts the representation of this religion, and immensely harms the other Italian Muslim citizens who believe in this religion and contribute to their country, Italy, based on this religious ethical reference and according to the laws of the country and its Constitution. Allam’s discourse seems to say to Italian Muslims that you are all wrong about it! The second reason is that he has also abused his right of belief, and freedom of expression, to use his knowledge, however distorted it appears to be, of his previous religion to cause “fear” and “insecurity” in a country that enjoys security and deserves it. Allam alarms the public, using public TV to which Muslims also contribute through taxes and to which scholars of Islam are hardly invited. He accuses a minority that is fragile from many perspectives (in terms of its economic situation, and cultural-political representation) of what it strongly opposes: violence and terror. He seems to say to the non-Muslim Italians that they are all wrong in trusting Muslims whose sacred book, the Quran, teaches violence! He does not quote the thousand verses of mercy, peace, solidarity and defense of the poor that the Quran is full of! That is why Allam cannot be a legitimate speaker of Islam, nor of ethical politics of whatever reference.

Allam fits into a narrative, which says that only ex-Muslims are – or should be, in case there are not many of them – the real representatives of Islam and Muslims, if that is tenable for a real democrat! It is like saying that Hitler spoke for all Europeans, and all Christians, and should remain so thereof, or that the Inquisitions spoke for God and they should remain so forever! No, historical mistakes are possible only in European history, and Other histories have only one story and one history, once and for all. Others do not think, do not make mistakes, and consequently do not correct them; they are the mistake and they remain so; they do not change. Others are essentialized. Allam is the Italian version of the Somali-Dutch Ayan Hirshi Ali. Ayan lived a terrible personal experience with religion and her country’s customs, and grew up to see Islam as the cause of that. She left Islam, and as an ex-Muslim she wants to reform this religion, because she thinks she knows it, and she can guide Muslims to overcome it. On Virus Speciale (15/11/2015), the renowned art critic and politician Vittorio Sgarbi said that he would talk only with ex-Muslims, and not with Muslim believers whose God orders them to kill. It is this guardianship and tutorship that is offered by xenophobes of Islam that should be avoided because it just causes more alienation of especially the youth, as the Canadian well known philosopher Charles Taylor once stated in a seminar in the American Studies Center in Rome (06/03/2015), a view other known Italian philosophers, politicians and journalists-writers share, but whose voice hardly reaches TV in comparison with Allam’s frequency! Luckily other alternative and more open written media spaces exist (newspapers like La Reppublica, L’Espresso, Metro, Il Sole 24, Reset, Resetdoc, etc.).

The Invisible Italian Islam: The Case of COREIS

Italian Islam is invited on mainstream TV to be weakened and alienated, or to be stamped as the exception and not the norm. Mainstream TV invites Muslim speakers, but they are often provoked, mis-trusted, and are shown interviews or reportage of violent Muslims or converts who radicalize. Italian Islam’s successful stories are not focalized. In speaking to Muslim guests, the TV presenter often uses “we” and “you” to alienate the speakers from their Italianity or Italianness; Muslims still have to feel outsiders in “our” TV and “our” culture; they do not belong here. L’Arena TV programme post-Paris event showed a reportage of a young Italian convert who radicalizes, and joins ISIS. The Muslim guest, Davide Piccardo, a young very good speaker and son of an Italian convert and translator of the Quran, was repeatedly asked to choose between the Quran and the Constitution, and more importantly, was asked to better organize “his” Muslim community and detect terrorists and report them to the police! Muslims are externalized, and terrorism problem is “theirs” and they have to solve it (alone)!

As to Italian converts to Islam, they do not make a good story; only Allam’s case does. The spiritual leader of one of the three major Islamic organizations and communities is an eclipsed example. Abdul Wahid Pallavicini converted to Islam in 1951, influenced by a French convert, the writer René Génon (d. 1951). Abdul Wahid Pallavicini, considered among the 500 most influential Muslim leaders worldwide, founded the known CO.RE.IS, a leading community composed by mainly but not only Italian converts, now led by his son Yahya Sergio Yahe Pallavicini. The COREIS defends Italian Islam, Italian and European way of being religious and Muslim, trains imams, and organizes various inter-religious dialogue initiatives, etc. If Italian mainstream TV programmes narrative, as nurtured by Salvini and Allam, is followed, Italian Islam as presented by the COREIS has to be suspected too, and cannot be trusted. All the thousands of COREIS members are an exception, the way other important Islamic organizations in the country, like UCOII, are. All Muslims are suspected; only ex-Muslims are integrated and can be trusted. Interestingly here, when these Italians convert to Islam, they do not write books to insult Europe and Christianity, nor do they come out to TV to disseminate hatred and suspicion as does Allam – except for the young convert cases that have joined ISIS, which the Ministry of Foreign Affairs estimates to fifty people, an alarming number however little it may appear for a country of about sixty millions, out of which about a million and half are Muslim. On the contrary, conversion seems to have generally given the Italian Muslims energy to embrace a new religious identity that builds on their past, and does not deny it or turn it into a theology of hate. Their positive engagement in society shows this. This is where religion becomes a public good from which other citizens benefit. Allam is out of track here. (I am in no way suggesting that conversion from one religion to another is better than its reverse; I am just making a case about how conversion of some is made more visible and the others’ not, and the consequences of this biased representation on the public debate and public good). Abdul Wahid writes in his Islam Interiore (2003) that when a Jew or a Christian or a Muslim kills another or hates him, he does so not because he is Jewish, Christian, or Muslim, but because he is not! Salvini might better distribute this book, instead of those of Fallaci that put all into one basket, and prevent the mind from opening up to other worlds around us.

Stereotypical Fallacies: Examples

Italian mainstream TV uses terms and concepts without profundity. Superficiality of analysis is extreme. Here are some examples. Muslim women are only those that wear the veil or the burqa, since often when they interview Muslim women, they are veiled; if they are not veiled, they are asked why they are not wearing the veil. Ballarò programme made a difference on 24/11/2015, when it invited Chaimaa Fatihi whose letter against ISIS got higher circulation. Chaimaa also made a slight different move in terms used: she identified herself as musulmana, and not islamica, and it is common in Italian that islamici refers to all the adherents to Islam, and not only to the political (violent) Islamists; that is why Italian Muslims got offended when “islamici” appeared in Il Giornale newspaper headlines “Bast—di islamici.”

When analyzing the conflict in the Middle East, simplifications of the issue to Sunnis vs. Shia problem appears often, with no further geopolitical analysis, or further historical insights. Most of ISIS troubles are depicted as a Sunni problem, an explosion of the Sunni world, which is also right but not enough to be the core thing, unlike the Shia world that appears intact and unified. This leads to the next fallacy: The Sunni world is having this fanatic explosion because it has no Pope, which the Shia have in the name of the guardian of the Islamic Republic of Iran. Lega Nord, Fratelli d’Italia, and Il Giornale spokespersons in TV, among others, often bring this to the fore as the basic problem: Muslims do not have a religious single authority. Is the Iranian Supreme Guide the spokesman of all the Shia in the world? Certainly not. Look at al-Sistani Shia highest reference/marji‘ in Iraq; he is against this guardianship and al-Khomeini politicization of Shia Imamate in 1978-79, a totally new step in Shia scholarly tradition. What about the Shia in Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Algeria, Pakistan, and in the rest of the Islamic world? Some are Twelvers like the ruling Shia in Iran, but they do not have allegiance to Iran, even though the Islamic Republic tried, and still tries, to recruit them to its side. As to asking Muslims to have a Pope, this is up to them. Having a Pope, in the sense of one religious-political authority, is a Christian tradition; in history, it had terrible effects on politics and social life, that is why there are democracies in the West now; new ruling elite and the masses, and the Protestants, fought for freedom from tyrant medieval Papacy. Muslims of medieval times, alongside minorities, broadly enjoyed a better life socially-politically, because they had no Pope; sharia legal theories were so flexible and adaptive to geographies and customs of the people, unlike now after having enforced it through state institutions to become rigid positive law. These distinctions that have historical validity are not brought to TV to show that traditions differ, and human beings had different ways of thinking of God, and still do. The fact of showing Papacy or the Christian tradition in general in opposition to the Islamic tradition makes the latter “wrong”, on the “other side,” and consequently “incompatible with our values in Europe.” This damages historical studies and diversity immensely. The Other is depicted as wrong, and there s/he stays, wrong forever! That is the reason why mainstream so-called moderates are also suspected, because the narrative looks at them as stagnant forever. The famous Italian novelist-philosopher Umberto Eco wrote an article on L’Espresso entitled “Dante e L’Islam” (12/12/2014) where he re-opened the door of historical exchange and enlightenment of the medieval cultured Islamic times and Europe, and said that those times should not be forgotten at the age of current terrorism.

Another stereotypical fallacy is that of presenting Saudi Arabia as if it were Islam itself, or the representative of the Islamic world. In debates, this country and its harsh and intolerable religious laws that are applied mostly to the poor is often brought to the front as the mirror of Islam. There is no denial that Saudi Arabia (a state born in 1932) has both symbolic significance for this religion, since it is where the Islamic sacred spaces of Mecca and Medina are located, and the birth place of Islam and its Prophet. It is also where oil reserves and petrodollars are, some of which fund or buy European football clubs, hotels, and influence the financial capitals like London, and purchase sophisticated and expensive weaponry from Euro-America. The point is that Wahhabism becomes on TV the voice of Islam, and eclipses the diversity of not only Arab Islam but Islam all over the world. When Italian Muslims defend Italian Islam and speak as Italians and Europeans, and not as Arab, they are asked what they think of apostasy punishment that is applied in Saudi Arabia, and some other countries, a question that again externalizes them from Italy, and Europe, and links them always to “there”, in the dark Arab world where ISIS governs, and Saudi Arabia. This superficiality and essentialization has to be overcome, but how?

The Invisible Italian Scholars of Islam

Italian scholars of Islam are hardly on TV. They have to be invited to mainstream TV programmes, and have to be invited on peak hours of viewership, and not at midnight or in the early hours of the morning! Fair-minded politicians, journalists, and writers who know the vast and diverse Islamic world that is seeking change from within should be involved. I had the pleasure of having studied and worked with some of them in Italian universities, media platforms, and in few occasions in political institutions, and they are the bright side of this rich country. L’Orientale university in Naples had an international fame in broad oriental studies at a certain moment, but reductions in state funding seems to have impacted it immensely. Other private leading universities seem to be investing in Middle Eastern studies, but that is very much little compared to international departments and institutes of Islamic Studies elsewhere in Euro-America. Pew Research Center published its report “The Future of World Religions 2010-2050” in April 2015, and found out that Islam is and will remain the fastest growing religion. Understanding why and how requires serious and fair research, especially at the age of violent turmoil that various socio-political factors contribute to – as the Italian philosopher Gianni Vattimo once said in Virus TV programme (11/09/2014) when debating Magdi Allam, but his note was not taken seriously, nor even stopped at.

I should mention that the week before and around Paris attacks of 13/11/15, I attended and participated in four seminars on the growing multicultural Italy, in four different locations and institutions, be they academic, political or in-between. These four events launched three books on diversity and multiculturalism in Italy, young Muslim girls/women in Italy, Islam between religion and politics, and interreligious dialogue in the country. (No need to mention names and places since this is not an academic paper nor an article that advertises institutions or particular names that I know or work with). This to show that there is intellectual dynamism, though handicapped by financial limitations, that listens to society dynamics, and does not silence them, or spreads suspicion and fear about them. “The fear of barbarians is what risks making us barbarians,” writes the Bulgarian-French philosopher Tzvetan Todorov (in The Fear of Barbarians: Beyond the Clash of Civilizations, 2010, originally written in French in 2006).

“Not In My Name” Rally: Why Only Few Muslims Went to the Streets?

TV programmes like Ballarò sympathized with the Italian Muslims, and Muslims in Italy, initiative of going out in the national rally “Not in My Name” of Saturday 21 November 2015, launched by the young Italo-Moroccan Member of Parliament Khalid Chaouki, and joined by the major Islamic organizations in the country, besides little ones, and attended by some Italian politicians and citizens of different affiliations, in both Rome and Milan. The President of the Italian Republic Sergio Mattarella sent them a written message of support, the president of the Senate Pietro Grasso sent them oral support, and president of the Chamber of Representatives Laura Boldrini did the same, and hosted the representatives of the Islamic community the morning of the event. But L’Arena programme and some other newspapers were provocative for one main reason: the demonstrators’ number was very little. This is true. Why? To say that the day was rainy is not an excuse, though it is certainly a small factor that hindered some, be they Muslim or not. There are more serious reasons than the weather. Some of these can be succinctly noted here.

First, Muslims are tired of justifying their loyalty to the country of their birth, education, growth, and work, and most importantly are tired of justifying that their religion advocates peace and compassion; otherwise, why would they still adhere to it and defend it even when faced with Islamophobia, Islamoparanoia, and socio-economic marginalization? Muslims in Italy in general are prone to poverty line, seeing the difficult economic situation in the country, socio-cultural stigmatization, and slow process of institutional integration through citizenship acquirement that is not easy to get – which puts Muslims and their children in disadvantaged position in terms of jobs and scholarships, when they are not citizens. Even the newly adopted citizenship law (of 2015) is only a “moderated jus sanguinis.” That is why there are more Muslims in Italy (i.e. residents) than Italian Muslims (citizens).

Second, Muslims in Italy are asked to organize themselves, while they are disadvantaged institutionally. Attempts have been done on this regards since the 1990s among the three major organizations (UCOII, CICI, COREIS), and smaller others. The Italian State went into that direction and created the Consulta Islamica in 2005, but efforts have failed to reach an intesa, or accord with the state, which would allow the Islamic community more institutional support and facilities on various levels. Among the one thousand spaces of worship available all over the country (i.e. garages or mussalla), there are only some six mosques that are officially recognized as such. So, when the TV debate focuses on asking Muslims to check who joins the mosques to avoid extremism, etc., this side of self-funding, and deprivation of the community from tax-payer returns for the benefit of the community are ignored, which angers a number of Islamic representative communities on the local as well as national level. That is the reason why the “Not in My Name” demonstration in Milan took as its slogan “No to Terrorism, Yes to Mosques.” For them, this is an issue that also deserves attention and solidarity by the rest of their fellow Italian citizens.

Third, Muslims in Italy appear not willing to appropriate the exact French style debate on Islam for various reasons, and one of which is that there are no ghettoes in the French style, though there are neighborhoods that are dominantly inhabited by new Italians of immigrant descent (like Centocelle and Torpignattara in Rome); still, these are not HLM French style, and the second generations of Muslims in the country are not experiencing or demonstrating like their French equivalents of les beurs in the 1980s, again for other national and international reasons.

Fourth, Muslims in Italy understand that the feel is not against religion per se, as in France, but the fear is against Islam, and this fear and feel amidst the autochthon Italians is influenced by what goes on in other Euro-American contexts. Religion in Italy is lived and visible, and deep in the culture, and this aspect has to be remembered and benefited from to accommodate new religious communities, and Muslims appear aware of this “advantage” that the French context does not offer. Italian mainstream media has to make an effort to understand all these factors and dynamics to present a fair and ethically professional picture of what is going on in society and the world around. Fair representation is a democratic must and should not escape media ethics.



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