There is a "dangerous" Islam, that is, fundamentalism; but there is also an "endangered" Islam. I am thinking of those young people, the children of immigrants, who have been born and bred here, in the West, and who are thus the product of the unprogrammed process of "métissage", a phenomenon which we are now witnessing. Italy too has reached this delicate stage: a new generation is growing - now in high school and in the universities, these young people would like to bring their contribution; they are asking for the instruments that would enable them to form a consciousness of their own selves and the particular and decisive role they might play. These young people are still immature, often even lacking a knowledge of Islam, usually enrolled in technical or scientific university faculties, dreaming of becoming doctors and engineers. For these reasons they are extremely vulnerable with respect to those imams "parachuted" here from their countries of origin, who speak Arabic better than them but apart from this have no specific knowledge, as they are the survivors of some ideological shipwreck heavily marked by the dramatic involution of the Muslim world that had been taking place since the '70s. I think that the presence of these young people should lead us to reflect, so as to avoid committing a grave sin of omission against them. Before them we discover ourselves too lethargic, hardly claiming to have anything to offer the new arrivals who confront us with our meanness. Too often do we end up measuring how far the immigrants and their children should be allowed to push their claims and desires, as if our role were only a passive or a controlling one. I can see these second-generation kids, more or less convinced Muslims, practising and non-practising, these veiled and non-veiled girls who frequent islamic centres such as the one in Brescia, where you meet 74 different nationalities: paradoxically, the Muslims discover here to what extent their civilisation is pluralistic. I know that some mosques are places of indoctrination but they are also garages and basements, and it is undignified that people should end up using these places if they want to meet or pray. Before the evidence of their number it is inevitable to hope we didn't remove, with the weeds, also the sprouting grain. Each of these young people has a potential demanding (not just implicitly) to be valued, so that all that is positive in Islam may emerge and be expressed. These new generations could become here, among us, the first barrier against the spread of fundamentalism. This is why we need to highlight the "positive métissage" which already exists, is developing and is only looking for a suitable environment where to bring good fruit. The alternative is to push these kids towards extreme positions, i.e., religious fundamentalism or the frivolous and ephemeral consumerism of the West. No matter which of the two, we would have lost them in either case.
Stay up to date: sign up for our newsletter
For insights and analysis subscribe to our biannual journal