Italian school inspected after exempting Muslims from Dante study

Dante Alighieri is considered Italy’s greatest poet. (AFP pic)

ROME: Italy’s education ministry said today it is inspecting a northern Italian school after a teacher exempted two students from studying Dante Alighieri’s Divine Comedy because it conflicted with their Muslim faith.

The teacher of a secondary school in Treviso, 40km from Venice, consulted the students’ families and, given the religious background of Dante’s poem, agreed to replace it with a book by another medieval Italian author, Giovanni Boccaccio, local media reported.

Dante, considered Italy’s greatest poet, describes his soul’s journey to God through Hell, Purgatory and Paradise.

The author placed the Prophet Muhammad among the souls of Hell, considering him a sower of discord.

“We have ordered an inspection to verify how the facts actually stand,” education minister Giuseppe Valditara said in a press conference, adding that “the exclusion from the school curriculum of one of the pillars of our literature … is completely inadmissible”.

The Italian Parents Movement also spoke out against the teacher’s decision, saying that “inclusion and respect for diversity pass through classical culture”.

Minister Valditara, a member of the far-right League party, said he did not know whether the teacher’s decision was due to “religious or cultural reasons, or the complaints of some parents”.

Last month, Valditara criticised a school on the outskirts of Milan for closing for a holiday on the last day of Ramadan to meet the needs of its many Muslim students and their families.

On that occasion, president of the Republic Sergio Mattarella expressed his support for the school and paid tribute to “the work carried out by the teaching staff and school bodies in fulfilling a valuable and particularly demanding task”.


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