Last month Dario Nardella, Mayor of Florence, and Imam Izzedin Elzir, President of the Union of Italian Islamic Communities, signed a ‘transparency pact’ that calls for the Italian language to be spoken during Islamic prayer services and for information booths for visitors to be set up in mosques. The pact, which was also signed by officials in Turin and began being discussed in November after the Paris attacks, is among one of the latest efforts to combat Islamophobia in Italy by helping the Italian community better understand Islam.
After the Charlie Hebdo shooting in Paris in January 2015, Islamophobia seemed to grow around the globe – not unlike after Sept. 11 – including in Italy. The region of Lombardy (the capital of which is Milan) passed a law that stated people of a religion not recognized by the state would face special restrictions when constructing places of worship. The law became known as an “anti-mosque law” due to the fact that Islam is the only major religion not officially recognized by the Italian government (for more on this read the section on “Muslim Organizations” on this information sheet about Islam in Italy). A PEW Research poll released January 2015 – the same month the law was passed – found that 63 percent of Italians polled have an “unfavorable” view of Muslims. This was the largest percentage of any country polled (other countries included Britain, France, Germany, Greece, Poland and Spain). In March 2015, the law was sent to Italy’s highest court for review in response to public outcry, and last month the law was nullified.
Fadi Ghandour, founder of the Ruwwad community center in Jordan, will be on the NYU Florence campus for a dialogue discussing the center as a source of community empowerment at 6 p.m. in Villa Sassetti on April 7. Ruwwad was founded in 2005 for the refugee community of East Amman and has multiple locations in the Middle East, helping different underprivileged communities. The non-profit offers resources such as job training programs and youth scholarships. In this TED Talk, Ghandour discusses Ruwwad as a source of community and entrepreneurship.
On February 16, La Pietra Dialogues was given the opportunity to host Olivier Roy, an expert on religious fundamentalism in the Middle East. From his talk, we learned that governments and militaries worldwide have made great investments of time, funds, and human lives into combatting the Islamic State. These efforts have come about largely due to fears related to ISIS’s desire to expand their vision of an Islamic state outside of their current territory and into the greater Middle East. There have even been implications of a desired expansion into the western world.. Yet, for all the investments made into combatting this problem, not everyone, including Olivier Roy, is convinced ISIS has the capability to dramatically expand further than its current territory. Since this discussion, we at the La Pietra Dialogues have researched a few statistics that bring light to why these skepticisms may or may not be valid. Read more
For the past four years, Syria has been experiencing turbulent changes and war. According to the BBC’s Lucy Rodgers, over 250,000 Syrians have been killed after the 4.5 years of armed conflict. The fighting first started in Denaa March 2011 when, riding on the wave of the ‘Arab spring’, Syrians began demanding the resignation of President Assad. The Assad family has held power in Syria since 1971, and the people became tired of “long-promised” economic and political reforms which were never delivered, and emboldened by the overthrow of long standing autocratic rulers in Egypt and Libya, as mentioned in Simple Points to Help You Understand the Syria Conflict. Read more
Matthieu Rey presents the upcoming dialogue The Syrian Crisis: A New Geo Politics in the Middle East? as part of the Middle East and North Africa series at 6 p.m. in Villa Sassetti on March 3.
Rey is a historian of the contemporary world at the Collège de France. The main focus of his research is the political systems of Iraq and Syria.
In his dialogue, Matthieu Rey will expose the different stages of the Syrian crisis from a local to a global conflict and its turning point leading to the rise of ISIS. He will explain how and why internal Syrian forces became profoundly divided and the consequences of this fragmentation. Finally, he will share his analysis of the different interests in competition and the near future of the Middle East region.
In his article, The Origins of the Islamic State, Rey details the recent history that led to the formation of ISIS. He brings historical context into his complex and circuitous discussion of whether ISIS constitutes a new “sovereign” power in the region. He enumerates the many ways that ISIS does not resemble a “traditional modern state.” In fact, ISIS aspires to be more of an “imperial caliphate” always in “conquest mode” and without fixed borders. Its discourse resembles, according to Rey, a non-governmental organization more than a state. He concludes that ISIS represents a new “political form beyond the state,” embodying “changes in the territorial inscription of public authority in the early twenty-first century.”
What effect might this new way of exercising power in the region have on the geo-political situation? Come to the dialogue on March 3 to find out.
“It is because we are human, that we have Human Rights.” — Mohammad Musa Mahmodi
Afghanistan, like many countries once under extremist rule, has a sordid Human Rights record. On February 9, 2016 Mohammad Musa Mahmodi outlined his organization’s strategy to cease human rights violations in his home country to NYU Florence Students. His organization, the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission, faces unfortunately common, but vastly complex challenges. Read more
NYU Florence’s Michelle Deme interviews Nema Milaninia, a human rights trial attorney with the Office of the Prosecutor for the International Criminal Court in The Hague (ICC). Milaninia joined Mohammad Musa Mahmodi in La Pietra Dialogues’ Middle East and North Africa series kickoff event, ‘Judging War Crime: Current Examinations in Iraq and Afghanistan’.
I could easily write a vitriolic think piece on why we mourn Paris and not Syria, Egypt, Beirut, Japan, or Mexico. It would take no effort for me to point out that we have a moment of silence every year on nine eleven for all the individuals who died in, and fighting for, the United States, but not for the 146,596 Iraqi non-combatants that died in the war on terror. Being a member of western civilization seems to be a prerequisite for death to be tragic. Writing that article would just add more anger to the world however, and these attacks have taught me that there is enough of that in the world. Read more
In light of the recent Paris attacks, countless politicians have expressed their opinions about the current refugee crisis. It’s interesting to see the different ways that the United States government and the European Union are handling the aftermath of the attacks. Several American governors have openly stated that they will refuse entry to any refugees, because in their opinion there are bound to be ISIS militants in the incoming groups. They say that America should mainly worry about its own safety, because the influx of refugees could pose a future threat. While members of the European Union have a similar opinion on the matter, stating that Europe needs to increase security for fear that ISIS militants may infiltrate the group of incoming refugees. Both the U.S. and the EU have allowed fear and generalization to cloud their judgement about an innocent and desperate group of people. By definition, a refugee is a verified asylum seeker meaning the person is fleeing from persecution and immediate conflict. Innocent Syrian civilians have had their country and homes destroyed. They need the world’s help, and America needs to begin helping Europe by sheltering these refugees. In 2015 alone more than 750,000 migrants arrived solely by sea. This doesn’t include the thousands of migrants that filtered through landlocked countries in the EU. It’s not only a crisis that affects Europe, the Middle East, and North Africa anymore: it’s the world’s crisis. Read more
One weekend in the wake of the tragic Paris attacks, I was in Vienna and I happened to walk past the French embassy where the front gates had been carefully decorated with flowers, fallen leaves, posters, and candles meant to express support for the country of France, while all over the world, social media has become inundated with people sharing their opinions on militant extremism and the flood of migrants searching for asylum from the violence and devastation in their home countries. Despite there being a number of other bombings and violent attacks in multiple other countries near the same date as the Paris strike, the major outpouring of support from the United States and the majority of the western world has been focused on Paris. This is strikingly illustrated in Facebook’s controversial decision to only supply the option to temporarily change one’s profile picture to France’s flag, rather than Syria’s or Lebanon’s or any other country that has suffered a devastating extremist attack. Read more