Muslims Seek to Build Future In Italy

March 4, 2009

Author: Elisabetta Povoledo

Source: International Herald Tribune

On one side of a drab street in working-class Milan, a squat structure houses a conservative mosque linked in the past to suspected Islamic terrorists.

On the other, an office building houses the budding newsroom of "Yalla Italia" (Let's Go, Italy), a monthly magazine written by 2Gs - the name here for second-generation immigrants - for young Muslims juggling identities and for Italians curious about a religion and a way of life barely extant just 20 years ago here.

The two buildings symbolize the different worlds inhabited by Italy's Muslims, a burgeoning community of more than a million that increasingly demands to be heard.

"We're separated by 10 meters, but culturally we're centuries apart," said Martino Pillitteri, the magazine's chief editor. In this Milanese microcosm, Pillitteri sees what he said he believes is the cultural clash taking place within Italy's Muslim community - "one vision driving toward the past, the other driving toward the future."

At a long conference table, a group of 20-somethings clustered for a weekly meeting. Most were women, several wearing head scarves, and nearly all were snatching a few hours from their university studies or day jobs. Some came to Italy as children, others were born here of mixed marriages, and still others came to study and stayed for love. They are at once Italian, European and Muslim.

"Yalla Italia" is a window onto their lives, covering a range of concerns that Muslims living in a non-Muslim society face on a daily basis. Rassmea Salah, a 25-year old Italian-Egyptian, mused in a blog entry on the Web site of Vita, a nonprofit magazine that hosts the eight-page "Yalla Italia" insert once a month, about issues like: "To wear or not to wear a burkini? How to best match kaftans with jeans. To eat pork or halal? To pray five times a day or to personalize all these precepts?"

See also: Islam, International