Italian Conservatives Protest Muslim Women’s Swimming Course

Italy Muslim Swimming Course

Even after Italian sports officials praised right-wingers for encouraging the country’s religious minority to participate in various sporting events, the conservatives are now viciously attacking an upcoming swimming course planned for Muslim women. The course is scheduled to take off in January 2015.

The initiative that plans on offering Muslim women the rare opportunity to learn swimming was taken by the Islamic Center in Sesto. From January 19 to April 20, the designated sports center in Northern Italy will be open to both non-Muslim as well as Muslim women. Even though the burkini has not been made compulsory, aspiring swimmers from the religious minority have been requested to adorn sleeved wet suits, knee-length shorts and swimming caps. All instructors for the swimming course are expected to be female.

The Geas Sports Association in Sesto applauded the initiative, calling it an important moment for integration. Yet, members of the right-wing Brothers of Italy, a national alliance party, attacked organizers of the initiative, accusing them of promoting outdated customs from other countries, customs that were allegedly abandoned in Italy during the 1960s and 70s.

“It’s a classic example of reverse discrimination,” Viviana Beccalossi, Urban and Regional Councilor for Lombardy. “If discrimination is the result of respect for the observance of Islamic rules then anything goes. Otherwise, we are accused of racism. After asking us to remove crucifixes from public places, to remove the nativity scene from schools and after cases occurring in many hospitals with some women refusing to be examined by male doctors, now it’s the swimming pool. Who knows what will happen next.”

Italy has a Muslim population of close to 1.7 million people, which includes approximately 20,000 reverts, according to a national statistics agency Istat’s database. This is not the only time that proposals to incorporate Muslims in Italy’s everyday life have been criticized by right-wingers.

In May 2013, members of another far-right Italian party, Forza Nuova, which also calls itself neo-Nazi, staged a demonstration in Paris to protest against the decision that would allot specific times to Muslim women at swimming pools so that the religious minority could have access to similar recreational facilities as non-Muslims do.

Additionally, the country’s first Muslim councilor recently fled the country after being threatened with her life as well as those of her children by far-right wingers.

Photo Credits: Alibaba

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