Islam in Italy: insights from a Europe-Mediterranean perspective
This paper explores the changing role of Islam in Europe, via the case of Italy. The focus is on the contemporary geographies of the changing identities and relationships in the Euro-Mediterranean region. The article intends to challenge the continuous representation of Islam in Europe between homogeneity and otherness. Indeed, the approach considers that relationships which shape places (and are shaped by places) do not stem only from media narratives, from powers and ideologies in general, but also from people's everyday inter-ethnic, inter-cultural, and emotional interactions. The latter do not occur in a vacuum, but rather in places and digital communication channels under grids of power. They are sometimes characterized by behaviours of self-caging and last but not least they always develop in light of geographical transformative power of encounters as 'situated' dynamics of people. Encounters are further shaped and have transformative potential within realms of 'moral geographies' of people and society's values and beliefs while dealing with 'difference'. The paper is based on a series of fieldwork carried out by the author over the years including expert interviews (interreligious dialogue associations, religious leaders, and researchers) and surveys/interviews with immigrants from across the Mediterranean, and on available data and literature for Italy. Main findings for policy-making can be summarized as follows: Europe is a periphery for Umma, not a central place, but in contrast to someorigin countries, Islam versions as Islam as predominant not a minority religion. Conversely, the European tradition of human rights, universalism, and democracy should be re-examined and practiced not only in the abstract but in the concrete form of engaged human relations with 'empathy', while laissez faire multiculturalism, aggressive assimilation or 'culturalism' exceptions should be avoided.
Copyright (c) 2017 Maria Paradiso
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