Religious Education in Italian Public Schools: What Room for Islam?
Stella Coglievina [+]
University of Insubria, Italy
Religious education in Italian public schools has always been a controversial issue. In the past, only Catholic religious education was possible: the legislation now in force allows other types of religious education. Religions with an agreement with the State can enjoy some specific rights in this field; other religions, among them Islam, have to refer to old acts on religious freedom (1929-1930) and have only some limited possibilities. Moreover, the lack of legal recognition of Islamic organizations and the scarcity of relationships with the public authorities can hinder the enjoyment of some rights. As a matter of fact, Muslim families often permit their children to attend Catholic education, in order to give them some notions on religion, but the lessons’ programmes and other aspects are established by the Catholic Church authorities, from a Catholic point of view. What scope is there, then, for Islam in public education? Which are the rights established by the legislation and how are they provided? How can Catholic education contribute to a better knowledge of Islam? Does it meet the needs of Muslim families? Can the private schools system (quite developed in Italy) help in this regard? A reflection on Islamic education and on its limits can also shed light on a more general problem: the legal treatment of Islam and the integration of young generations and of the entire Muslim community in Italian society.