Muslim imams in Italy will be enrolled onto courses to teach them about the nation’s constitution and its values, such as free speech, tolerance, and pluralism.
The new courses will be taught at six universities, including Pisa and Florence, and are part of an £80,000 interior ministry programme to improve integration and prevent extremism in Italy.
Religious leaders from non-EU countries, who plan to work in Italy, will be expected to attend and be taught about the “rights and duties inherent in our democratic societies”.
“The purpose is to foster a dialogue between religions and cultures, contributing to the construction of a peaceful social coexistence and non-violence”, Professor John Cymbals, director of the courses, told La Repubblica.
The professor of ecclesiastical law said the courses “appeal to all those communities that do not have internal agreements signed with the State”.
Islam is the only major religion in Italy that is not officially recognised and has no such agreement with the State.
Such recognition does not merely depend on having a certain number of followers in Italy, but requires the principles of a religion to align with the Constitution.
At the end of last year, the country set up a council of “Italian Islam” in an attempt to bring the religion into compliance with the country’s “Christian and humanist tradition”.
Various Christian denominations, including Greek Orthodox churches and Jehovah’s Witnesses, as well as Hindu and Buddhist temples, receive a certain amount of tax revenue. Islamic institutions currently receive no such benefits.
Throughout Italy, there is also a raft of local legislation that makes it difficult to construct mosques and other new religious buildings, according to the IBTimes.
Italy’s estimated 1.6 million Muslims (3.7 per cent of the population) have only a handful of registered mosques to use. Many pray in houses and in some 800 cultural centres and prayer rooms across the country.
The process for setting up a new place of worship will also be taught on the new courses.