Problems of Convivenza: Representing the New Muslim Minority in Northern and Central Italy

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Title: Problems of Convivenza: Representing the New Muslim Minority in Northern and Central Italy
Author: Shuch, Jennifer
Advisor: Zadeh, Travis
Department: Haverford College. Dept. of Religion
Type: Thesis (B.A.)
Issue Date: 2009
Abstract: This thesis is an exploration how the Italian government and Muslim communities in Italy are dealing with the sudden influx of Muslim immigration within the past ten years. How these Muslim immigrants are represented both by themselves and by the Italian government is an important issue, because it not only determines how Muslims are treated legally, but also how they interact with Italian citizens. This interaction is critical because the more marginalized these immigrants feel, the more insulated they can become, in some cases turning to governments and organizations in Islamic countries, which may or may not be friendly towards Italy. This also raises the question of integration. If both the majority of Muslims in Italy, as well as the Italian government see integration as something that is both positive and necessary, each group must feel comfortable enough with each other in order to promote this integration successfully. In the first section, I survey the political climate of Italy in the past ten years in order to understand the role that the emerging conservative Right and Center Right have played in issues of immigration and integration, not to mention other policies directed toward the small Muslim community in Italy, and how these policies shape the image of Muslims in Italian discourse. In the next section, I explore at many of the same questions, but this time in regards to the Pope and the Catholic Church. Although Italy is not as strictly Catholic as it once was, the Pope is still an important religious and political figure in Italy. In this section I explore the efforts Pope Benedict XVI has made in terms of the Vatican II doctrine of interfaith dialogue, as well as some less favorable actions taken by the Pope and other members of the Catholic clergy in Italy. The third section of this thesis is an inquiry into marginalization in Italy, largely in terms of Muslim groups in Italy: how they represent themselves, whom they claim to be representing, and what the Italian government thinks of them. The fourth section looks at the immediate and pressing problem of building a mosque in Italy. This is an example of how Muslims are being actively marginalized by a vocal minority in Italy, both within the government and general population. In the next section, in this same vein of representation and marginalization, I look at violence and terrorism in Italy. This section not only interrogates what kind of violence and terrorism are being perpetrated both by and against Muslims, but also at how this violence is reported on. Specifically, I examine how fears essentially created by newspapers play out in public discourse. Fear, prejudice, misunderstanding, and misrepresentation are all powerful factors in the way Muslim immigrants are being treated in Italy today. In many ways, it is easy to overlook the fact that Muslim terrorists and anti-Muslim extremists are very much in the minority. Once this fact is accepted and vocalized, Muslims and non-Muslims in Italy can come together in a more productive dialogue and figure out a way to more peaceably coexist.
Subject: Muslims -- Italy
Subject: Italy -- Emigration and immigration
Subject: Italy -- Emigration and immigration -- Religious aspects -- Catholic Church
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Shuch, Jennifer. "Problems of Convivenza: Representing the New Muslim Minority in Northern and Central Italy". 2009. Available electronically from

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