Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Italian magazine tries to narrow gap with Muslims

It was heartening to read this story in the NY Times on Sunday. Italy has 1% of its population who identify themselves as Muslims and it has been a difficult adjustment for many of them, both first and second generation - to assimilate into a culture that is far more liberal and open minded than anything their religion allows them to align themselves with.

"Yalla (the Arabic word for let's go) Italia" or "Let's Go, Italy" - is the name of an Italian magazine that is run by young students, most of whom have struggled to assimilate into Italian culture with varying degrees of success. Some are in interreligious marriages, others devoutly Moslem, yet others trying to find a place for themselves in a foreign country

Here is an excerpt from the article: "The message behind articles and blog posts like “To wear or not to wear a burkini?” and “How to match kaftans with jeans” is clear: it is possible to assimilate without losing a Muslim identity.

“We’re separated by 10 meters, but culturally we’re centuries apart,” said Martino Pillitteri, Yalla Italia’s chief editor. He said he saw the differences between his mission and that of Muslim conservatives as symbolic of the divide in Italy’s Muslim population — “one vision driving toward the past, the other driving toward the future,” he said.

I have lived in 3 countries and 5 states. Each time I move, I realize that once more, I will have to assimilate into yet another way of living, same language, same country, different morees and nuances, sayings, cultural expressions etc. While living in Germany, I was called a "Gastarbeiter" or "guestworker" - not good enough really to do much more than be a worker bee and register with the police department every time I moved to another apartment in my younger years - little wonder then that I did not marry the German man with whom I was in love all those years ago - the country and its way of treating foreigners just didn't sit with me.

Here is another excerpt: "The magazine’s articles are rarely political, although it has taken on some causes, including championing changes in laws to make the children of immigrants citizens automatically if they are born in Italy, rather than requiring them to apply for citizenship after 18 years of residence.

Most of the articles focus on how Italy’s Muslims live and interact with non-Muslim Italians, covering such topics as mixed marriages and the conflict between the older, less assimilated generation of immigrants and their often more open children.

Mr. Pillitteri likes to say that Yalla Italia’s staff is the medium as well as the message. Most of the reporters are women, some of them traditional enough to wear head scarves, and nearly all work during the few hours a week they snatch from their university studies or day jobs. Some came to Italy as children, others were born here of mixed marriages, still others came to study and married."

I love this magazine - I wonder whether I could get an English version of it online - it speaks to so many topics du jour that are expedient to discuss. Here is the link to the story: http://www.nytimes.com/2009/04/05/world/europe/05muslims.html?_r=1&scp=1&sq=muslims%20in%20italy&st=cse

The world is becoming increasingly smaller and America is no longer the center of attraction. It behooves all of us to learn another language, travel to other lands and learn of others and their cultures so that we can truly become one world.

Islam is the fastest growing religion and not all who practice it are terrorists, just as not all Mormons (second fastest growing religion) are not polygamists.

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