In 2003, the Union of the Muslims of Italy (UOMII), led by a radical convert to Islam named Adel Smith, brought a court action to have the crucifix removed from all public schools in that predominantly Catholic country. Calling the crucifix a “small body on two wooden sticks,” and “a miniature cadaver,” Smith and UOMII lobbied hard for their removal. Also on their agenda was the removal of an “offensive” 15th century Giovanni di Modena fresco in the Bologna cathedral and the deletion of Dante’s Divine Comedy from the school syllabus. Smith said both showed the prophet Mohammed cast into hell and were blasphemous against Islam.
The local Italian Court ruled in favor of the Smith and the Muslims. The schools appealed.
The matter was taken up by the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg, France (along with a similar action by a different plaintiff), and in a stunning decision, which has gone almost entirely unreported by most major news outlets and cable programs (with the exception of a small, peripheral mention on Fox News) in this country, that Court also ruled last week that displaying crucifixes in the Italian schools violated Europe’s principle of “secular education,” and “might be intimidating for children from other faiths.”
The presence of the crucifix could be … disturbing for pupils who practiced other religions or were atheists, particularly if they belonged to religious minorities. The compulsory display of a symbol of a given confession in premises used by the public authorities… restricted the right of parents to educate their children in conformity with their convictions.
The ruling has provoked outrage from all levels of Italian society, being nearly unanimously condemned by Christians, greens, conservatives, and even communists, who called the ruling “absurd.”
Mariastella Gelmini, a member of the government of conservative Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, argued that:
No one, and certainly not an ideological European court, will succeed in erasing our identity.
The head of the main opposition leftist Democratic Party, Pierluigi Bersani, commented that the ruling lacked common sense.
I think a longstanding tradition like the crucifix can’t be offensive to anyone.
Foreign minister Franco Frattini, speaking during a visit to Morocco, said it was an attack on Italy’s Christian identity and that the government would appeal the decision.
At a time when we’re trying to bring religions closer together, this is a blow to Christianity.
Those sentiments aside, it may already be too late for Italy.
Although generations of Italian children have grown up studying in classrooms displaying a crucifix, Italy has been transformed of late with the arrival of some 4.5 million refugees and asylum seekers (about 8% of the entire population), a huge percentage of which are Muslims. The influx has led to deep-seated tensions with Muslim immigrants from North Africa and the Middle East (who tend to resist assimilation and are becoming more vocal and radicalized as their numbers grow) despite efforts by the Italian government to accommodate them (as evidenced by the building the Grand Mosque in Rome, the largest Mosque in Europe).
To add insult to injury, the European Court has also fined the Italian government the sum of five thousand Euros, for their role in:
Psychologically damaging students who were forced to learn in the midst of a crucifix.
The Islamization of Europe continues unabated.