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Р. Рикуччи. Взросление в тени Святой Плащаницы. Второе поколение мусульман в Италии

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Научный результат. Социология и управление → 2020 → Том 6, Выпуск №3, 2020 

Взросление в тени Святой Плащаницы. Второе поколение мусульман в Италии

Роберта Рикуччи 

Мусульмане в Италии включают не только представителей первого поколения, но и все большее число представителей второго поколения. Учитывая это, становится все более очевидным, что любое исследование мусульман должно учитывать, как иммигранты-мусульмане и их рождённые в Италии дети, или второе поколение, адаптируются к жизни в Италии. В этой статье будут рассмотрены межпоколенческие различия в этнорелигиозной идентичности итальянцев-мусульман, а полученные результаты будут включены в более обширную литературу об их втором поколении, аккультурации и религиозности. В этом исследовании рассматриваются в основном вопросы: а) как мусульмане во втором поколении, как группа, выражают свою религиозную идентичность, и б) есть ли различия в религиозной идентичности их и их родителей? Проблема этнорелигиозной адаптации мусульман во втором поколении в Италии является важной областью исследования, учитывая негативное отношение СМИ после 11/9 в контексте, когда одна из политических партий, «Лига Севера», использует религиозные различия для борьбы с иммиграцией, подчеркивая дистанцию между молодым поколением мусульман и другими. Данные, используемые в статье, были получены в результате полуструктурированных качественных интервью с 40 молодыми мусульманами.

Ключевые слова: ислам, местная политика, второе поколение, Италия, религия

Introduction (Введение). Portraying the image of Islam in Italy is not easy. It would be more appropriate to propose a multi-faceted report. What is labeled as Islam must be divided by backgrounds, Koranic schools of belonging, practice, and relationship with the society and with the state in its various forms[1].

If this is true for the first generation of immigrants, what happens to the second? The question of how faith, ethnicity and level of acculturation relate to each other is very relevant in the Italian scenario, where the majority of its residents still continue to define themselves as Catholic (at least according to their socialization) and where even among immigrants the proportion of Christians (especially the Orthodox) is the main one, followed by that of Muslims. However, if the former can count on a generally positive climate of acceptance (at least from the religious point of view), the latter face the risk, even when they become Italians, of being labeled negatively.

This is the lesson to be drawn from the experience of traditional immigration countries (Phalet, Güngör and Fleischmann 2011). What about Italy? Above all, what about Muslim believers? Are they bound to behave differently? What effects family religious socialization will have and if it can counteract the pressures towards secularization or “do-it-yourself”, which seem to characterize today's youth population. Or the ongoing process of exclusion, marginalization and discrimination will push them to react, taking refuge in so-called ethnic identity, in which religious belonging has been exacerbated (Berry, 2008; Aydin, Fischer, Frey 2010; Helbling, 2012)?

The growing presence of prayer halls, temples, ethnic chaplaincies, and the planning (and, in some cases, the building) of mosques reject the idea that migrants have internalized the same secular model that has marked recent decades of European society, in a sort of religious assimilation (Modood, Triandafyllidou, 2012; Foley, Hoge, 2007; Cesari, 2013).

The relationship with the religion of their parents certainly changes: migration also intervenes in their way of living in faith, the frequency of their practice (making it more or less constant), and their attendance at the places of worship. The latter do not have only a religious role, but become important places offering hospitality services and a kind of social support system, both for the first migrants and for those who emigrate irregularly (Gans, 1994; Hirschman, 2004).

Methodology and methods (Методология и методы). Various research on Islam in Italy (Allievi 2003; Guolo, 2005; Pace, 2013) has gradually revealed how those who identify themselves in this religion can be placed along a route that goes from cultural proximity to active commitment in community associationism, through intermediate positions such as those of the individual and/or family practice and regular attendance of the mosque. Their attitude towards religion appears to be variegated and not attributable to simplifications which tend to present the second religion among immigrants (not the first or the majority religion, as is often stated) as practiced by active believers, unscathed in religious belonging by the effects of migration and living in a context where the architectural structure for prayer is missing (or is reduced to environments which are not always uplifting, such as garages, warehouses in backyards) and the schedule of working, school and social life make practice difficult (IDOS-UNAR, 2019).

Analysing whether and how the way of being Muslim changes across generations in a relatively new immigration country like Italy is extremely interesting, being a paradigmatic case of the relationship between faith, immigration and recognition of participation in social life. In other words, by looking at the Muslim community, we can grasp the main elements of conflict between citizens and foreigners on a particular theme, which once again becomes such a sensitive matter for the definition of identity as that of religious belonging. After all, it is not a coincidence that in recent years, research and studies in Europe and Italy have focussed on the growing presence of Muslims (Heath, Rothon, Kilpi, 2008; Cesari, 2014). The growing presence of Muslims in Italy fits in the discussion of migration and its numbers: it seems quite impossible to discuss separately the two issues, even though some of Muslims have become Italian citizens and some Italians have converted to Islam. In other words, the exclusive reminder to the issue of ‘Muslims are all migrants’ is not true. However, perceptions matter than statistics and data on citizenship or social inclusion: indeed, the issue of Islam in Italy continues to be linked only to the issues of securization, legality and de-radicalization.

Nowadays, these issues are less evident thanks to the several local policies aimed at promoting an intercultural dialogue. On the other hand, according to Muslim organizations, the idea of suggesting an Islam which is compatible with the Western and Italian context is developing. In pursuing this goal, throughout the country, several projects and initiatives have been set up in partnership with local public institutions and NGOs working at the district level. There is a specific will and interest of Muslim organizations (especially those in which second generations are involved) to demonstrate their propensity to promote integration (Ricucci, 2017).

However, from another point of view, sometimes hasty tales of terrorist events bring to the fore fears and ghosts, operating simplistic reductions of reality and making young Muslims (and the second generation) representatives of extremist groups. In this way religion is intertwined with national belonging (Vertovec and Rogers, 1998). Is citizenship so strong as to weaken the radical pressures and make the belonging component of the identity mosaic without coming into conflict with the values of tolerance, co-existence and respect characteristic of the achievements of democratic societies? Or do the children of immigrants remain, regardless of training, the civic education received and the recognition of their rights, deeply attached to the community of origin, limiting their relations with the reality in which they live only to some areas of life (such as work)? In this contribution, I’m trying to answer the above-mentioned questions looking at how children of immigrants with a Muslim background are developing their religious identity and to what extent their religiousness is similar to that of their parents. Findings come from qualitative studies I carried out in the past years and which have been partly published in journals or books (Ricucci, 2017; Ricucci and Premazzi, 2017). For this contribution, I refer to 10 interviews with key informants (stakeholders, cultural and social workers, associations’ representatives) and to 40 semi-structured interviews carried out in Turin, one of the main intercultural and inter-religious cities in Italy and where the Holy Shroud is, and represent one of the main religious trait of the city cultural life. The interviews were carried out in the past five years, involving Moroccan-origin Muslims, gender balanced, age between 18 and 28. Among the sample there were interviewees born and/or socialized in Italy, which can be defined as ‘second generations’, while only ten have Italian citizenship.

Research Results and Discussion (Научные результаты и дискуссия). Onstage and backstage: young immigrants grow up. Children and adolescents, born in Italy or arriving later, form part of this complex social fabric, are willy-nilly protagonists of the debate about revising the citizenship law and – more recently – about dealing with war victims, border conflicts and conflicts based on identity, religion and politics. Between these two extremes – between those involved in improving the law and those risking their lives to find a country where they can build their future – lies the world of foreign minors, a difficult planet to investigate and understand in its entirety. Various studies have investigated the characteristics of these minors and young people, mainly through their school participation, but also recently in other fields (identity definition, plans for the future).

A synthesis of the main findings of the above-mentioned studies portraying foreign minors in Italy reveals a group which has grown in the last two decades due to both family reunions and births in Italy and will slightly continue to grow in the future: the number of second generations is increasing. This group, according to the numerous ethnic communities living in Italy, varies based on their background, age of arrival, family households and future plans. From the educational point of view, it is increasing at senior high-school level and universities. Various research has scrutinized their educational paths, relations with parents, future career plans and national identity definition. Less attention has been paid till now to their religious behaviour. Data presented in this paper are drawn from the research carried out in Turin, a city where a well-established Moroccan community lives. Moroccans were among the first (origins go back to the 1970s) to arrive in Turin – and in Italy as a whole – and for a long time they comprised the most numerous group. They are the group to whom researchers paid most attention, especially in the past, investigating various aspects such as their social and economic insertion, family structure and religion. Further studies focussed on the youth component: second generations are today numerically significant and are now visible not only in compulsory schools but also at universities (Mezzetti, Ricucci, 2019). Some have started to enter the labour market, some managed their own associations and others are strongly involved in inter-ethnic activities which gather second generations in order to differ themselves from those associations led by their parents (i.e. first generations), linked to memories and nostalgia to the past spent in another country. The growing numbers of foreign pupils in schools, the widespread experience of meeting people from different backgrounds, along with shared models and lifestyles, can reduce the importance of distancing elements between young Italians by extraction, by marriage and by residence. Among youths whom it is possible to define as well-integrated we find greater confidence about the future: they believe that for them who are foreign or of foreign origin it will be easier to find work than in the past.

“In my opinion, today is not the same as 10 years ago: my mother has told me that when she was walking along the street, people avoided her because she was wearing a veil. Times have changed. Perhaps older people will not get used to seeing a woman with a veil or a black man working in a bank, but for us young people it’s different” (17-year-old Moroccan girl).

Positive evaluation of double cultural identity seems to prevail within this group. There is an “avant-garde”, boys and girls that have decided to become actively involved in making their voice heard, communicating to society that they are different from their parents, that they have no intention of staying on the sidelines but are going to be active players in the social field. Some of them do this by getting themselves trained as youth leaders and taking part as volunteers in intercultural recreational activities, others by becoming involved in associations.

Being Muslim, becoming Italian: growing up in a country where you are a “fish out of water”. In the group of Muslims that I’ve interviewed, relations with religion were heterogeneous: from those who use to attend a mosque daily to those who prefer to cultivate a more private (and invisible) religious attitude; from a girl wearing a chador to those who refuse, accordingly with their parents, to being religious without following the dress code.

Interviewing young people, the focus was on the relevance of religion in their life, starting from the evidence that Muslims in Italy still continue to experience discrimination and racist attacks. In other words, the hypothesis is that it is more important to young Muslims to be included and accepted than strongly show their religious affiliation and present requests at the local institutions.

“Above all, I am Moroccan, my parents remind me. According to them, I must do “Moroccan” things, be like Moroccans are, be religious and be a Muslim, but I want to be Italian AND Moroccan, I don’t want to be identified only on the basis of my religion” (M, Moroccan, 19-year-old).

“I am 19 years old, but I have been living in Turin since I was 10. I speak Italian well, have friends of many nationalities, every year I go back to Morocco. It hasn’t always been easy: at school, there is always someone who has something against foreigners, sometimes Albanians, sometimes Moroccans, sometimes, blacks, never Rumanians, who knows? But there are many people and fortunately I know many who think of me as a person and not as a Moroccan in particular. Perhaps because I don’t wear the veil and speak Italian?” (F, Moroccan, 19 years old).

“It is unbelievable to discover that after so long time, Italians still consider Muslim as people coming from the moon. Our parents are well inserted in the local economies, we have been enrolled in your schools, interact with your children, why do you continue to perceive as enemies? It seems that a lot of Italians can only see our religiousness and not our other several identities, as women, mothers, workers” (F, Moroccan, 23 years old).

Considering the role of religion in the daily life, it is relevant to point out how all the interviewees have stressed that among the second generations there is a tendency to opt for a kind of a “secular way of life”. Of course, this statement is in contrast with the exclusive focus of the media on radicalization processes and extremism tendencies which are out of the room. Similarly, to their peers growing up in an Italian (and not migrant) family, Muslims have developed a cultural religious identity: they recognize themselves as boys and girls socialized in a Muslim environment, without leaving the religious rules to manage all their life habits and social settings.

Considering the literature review on secularisation, religious pluralism has been associated with cultural diversity, individualization of the faith and rite-attendance decline (Bruce, 2011). In this perspective, the interaction of Muslim minorities with various (and sometimes opposite) visions of habits, rules, values in multicultural societies would weaken their reference to sharia and Koran as the ultimate source of authority and truth. Thus, European, Italian or migrant citizens with a Muslim background might cope with the challenges of pluralism and secularism in European societies by mobilising around a common religious identity and public cause.

The resurgence of feelings against Muslims and Islam in general might increase, as well as ethnic religious identification, reinvigorating rather than eroding Islam in Europe. In this perspective, Muslim minorities in Italy constitute a critical test case of competing theoretical expectations about the impact of inter-ethnic relations on religious mobilisation (Saint-Blancat, 2004; Maddanu, 2009).

Religion and religious organizations in emigration play a powerful role in the construction, support, and reinforcement of religious orientations and provide continuity in values transmission from one generation to another. And it is more important in the case of minorities, as Muslims in Italy still are. Musallas and mosques act as responsible for youth’s religious socialization, helping parents in this crucial role in an adverse context where Muslims are stigmatized both for the religious affiliation and for their migratory experience.

The case of the veil is symboloc here.

“The thing is that I can’t feel close to my religion without the veil. Maybe some others can but I can’t. It has its religious significance in any case, but here it means something more. And for this reason, to,o I hold on to my personality, my culture and my identity” (F, Moroccan, 19 years old).

“I don’t say “I’d like to be… I’d like to have lighter skin to seem more Italian. I like myself as I am. I don’t say ‘So that the others won’t make fun of me, so that they won’t thik I’m a terrorist, I want to be Italian’. No, absolutely not. I like myself, that is to say I’m proud of being Moroccan and I put on the veil myself, on my own initiative. Everybody knows that…” (F, Moroccan, 20 years old).

The decision to wear the veil seems to be a way of “not disappearing”, of presenting one’s “specifity” to the world, one’s being “many different things” and showing that complex being oneself to the outside world: it is the passage from being labelled “Muslims” to being proudly, visibly such. It is, however, an effort requiring daily commitment and constant work, because the environment is not always perceived to be friendly and devoid of incongruities.

“There is not a problem in other countries, where Muslims are in all societal environments and people use to meet women wearing the veil or men pray in their offices. Here, all seems so strange. Look at your monuments, there are some parts remembering the historical ties with the Muslim world. A lot of Italians still believe that they live in a cloud without any interactions with other worlds: we are here and we will continue to live, work, spend our free time and pray in Italy, wearing the veil or not, this is not really important (F, Moroccan, 21 years old).

“My father says there are more girls today with the veil than a few years ago. Of course, here [in a small city in the province] we live in a small place and people need to get used to it. I know, but when people stare, it bothers me. Have they never seen a woman with a scarf? At school we saw a film set in Italy’s past and the women wore a kind of a scarf on their heads and were all dressed in black. Then why are they so afraid of our veil? Because of Islam? But it’s not as if every moment we walk we’re thinking of religion. And you, do you pray every second? When I think of my friends, I’m sure they think of other things” (F, Moroccan, 18 years old).

Among those who strongly defend their religious identity, I identify this behaviour as a reaction to the condition of ‘children of immigrants’. Indeed, in general perception, being associated with migration – a highly sensitive topic in Italy in the current years – could negatively influence the identity definition. Thus, despite its role as a source of values and resilience for the first generation, the paradoxical appeal of the religion for many second-generation members lies in its capacity to provide a kind of "refuge" from this sense of marginalization, and along with it, positive social identity and group empowerment.

However, in accordance with the trends in several countries (Podrebarac Sciupac, 2020), among Muslims there is a group of those who declare that being religious is one (residual) part of their identity, due to their family’s upbringing and little more.

“To you, a Muslim is a man who always goes to the mosque, who follows only what the imam says, who observes Ramadan. To me and many of my friends, being a Muslim means coming from a family tied to Islam. Many of us, young people, only observe Ramadan and we participate in festivities, like the Feast of the Sacrifice. We are Muslims in our own way. We live here, not in Morocco or Egypt. We must try to adapt” (M, Moroccan, 21 years old).

Being Muslim in this case means being socialized in a Muslim family and referring to a cultural background in which one grows up, to a relationship that is more or less intense until adolescence and is then followed by detachment. In these cases, being a Muslim is a (small) piece of the identity puzzle.

“My father is very religious. I had been a practising Muslim from the age of 8 to 18. I had always observed the five daily prayers, Ramadan, etc., because my father passed down his religious fervor on me. Then, at some point, when I started to think a little bit for myself... I don’t know, going dancing or drinking alcohol there came an incompatibility between belief and what I put into practice. Although I do not pray anymore, I still observe Ramadan. Obviously, this displeases my father but it is my choice. It is useless to pray just to please your father. I do not observe the five daily prayers and I do not go to the mosque on Fridays, because going to school or working prevents me from doing so, unless I have a day off on Friday. Even my sisters have followed my path: my sister stopped much earlier than me, one of them resumed after years of interruption, the other two are believers but they do not pray. However, we all observe Ramadan. In short, there are minor differences but we all chose, more or less, the same path. My father continues to go to the mosque and during Ramadan he goes there every day. For the rest of the year, since he’s working, he prays in the house in the evening. However, he is still a very practising Muslim” (M, Moroccan, 24 years old).

The quotation describes well the generational shift in the relationship with religion. The distance between generations in how they manage and play religious identities is the same as what we can see in many Italian families (Garelli, 2020): the outcomes of religious socialization can sometimes result in a younger generation that continues the tradition of behaviour and religious practices of their parents, sometimes giving rise to processes of detachment, to independent paths of relationship with the sacred.

“My parents tried to pass down their culture and their religion on me, but I immediately realized it was not something for me. However, I am tied to some things and I want them to stay for a lifetime, because it is something that binds me to them and that identifies me. Even if I am not a believer, I identify myself with it and I love it” (F, Moroccan, 19 years old).

“For young people, following the teachings of their parents is not easy. There are those who come here and have forgotten Islam, especially those who have married an Italian woman […] We have educated our children like us, but they have their ways. They have more Italian friends than Moroccans, more atheists and Catholics than Muslims. I just let them be, because they know their religion and they know what they can and cannot do” (F, 48 years old, Moroccan, cultural operator).

The interviewee stresses a key aspect of the relationship between second generations and religion, which deals with “the power of large numbers” (Portes and Hao, 2002). The increased visibility of Muslim families, the number of students at school who claim to be Muslim, the girls who wear the veil and the associative leading role linked to religion can, therefore, be a fertile ground for the emergence of latent religious identities, whose appearance was prevented by fear of stigma or discrimination. To this end, however, the mosques – or rather, prayer halls, which continue to be a point of reference for the old pioneers and the new immigrants – seem to play a lesser role, carrying out the functions that are typical of those religious organizations in emigration, which is not only a reference to religion but also (and especially) to identity (Ricucci, 2017).

Conclusions (Заключение). Being Muslim and Italian is not an oxymoron. Italy has been facing up the presence of foreign adults and minors for about forty years. Since the 1990s, it has begun to pay particular attention to the component of minors in the immigration phenomenon, both because of their growing numbers and the challenges and problems they present at the local level – from welcoming to academic policies, from free-time activities to relations with parents rediscovered after a long time. This attention has led to various initiatives dedicated to (especially academic) insertion, to language learning, to educational assistance and foreign minors’ expressive play. This involvement and efforts made on behalf of the youngest immigration component may be put down to the so-called «assimilation anxiety», characterizing receiving societies wonders: whether attending Italian schools will educate the children of immigration to the country’s values, norms, and style of life, weakening the particular characteristics which are least in tune with society (from religion to language to dress). In short, assimilation anxiety would wish to observe straight-line assimilation, while for some time studies have been showing that insertion paths do not always result in assimilation, but sometimes lead to an alternate biculturalism, sometimes a revival of ethnic identity, and sometimes event to marginalization paths. In these integration paths there are no differences by gender and by religious belonging, as someone could imagine. Indeed, the bicultural approach is widespread among the majority of young people with a foreign origin, and it is supported by specific projects at the local level. Turin fits in this scenario as one of the Italian cities where both public and private bodies cooperate for promoting the second-generations’ integration paths, taking into account languages, cultural and religious differences. Due to this attitude, the city is considered at national level as an interesting case, sometimes named as “a laboratory of integration” for its policies, and its activities are scrutinized by experts, policy-makers and scholars both at national and international level. (Mezzetti and Ricucci, 2019).

The findings of this contribution, of course, benefit this peculiar framework, where cultural and religious differences, especially among the second generations are taken into account and considered positively in the socio-cultural arena.

Indeed, on the one hand, there are young people, children, who are active in civic life, connected with their peers both in the European diaspora and their countries of origin, members of the Islam that is “tempered” or “conditioned” by the comparison with Italian reality. On the other hand, adults and parents, who are anchored to the image of Islam in emigration that took refuge in the mosque, find comfort and support in the ethno-national community and do not feel the need to become an essential and relevant partner of intercultural policies in the city. Of course, between these two poles, there are several religious attitudes. The increase of youth leadership, girls’ activism, promotion of interfaith events and initiatives of debate on Italian and European Islam show that a positive cohabitation is possible between Muslims and Catholics. The revolution then comes to light – even at the religious level – dictated by the advance of the second generation and the progress of the agenda regarding the internal confrontation of associations on the theme of leadership and the role that children of immigrants play in promoting recognition and appreciation of their parents’ generation.

In some events dealing with the relations between Muslims (who are not considered Italians even if they hold the citizenship) and other citizens (Italians by origin and other ethnic communities), young people play a pivotal role in a place where adults, that is the first generation, take on leadership and management roles. However, the desire of some to act as leaders, offering an Islam that is different from that of their fathers, is not without obstacles: it is very difficult for young people to be recognized as representatives of the community, threatening to obscure figures who have been taking on roles of responsibility within the organization for a long time.

On the other hand, young people can count on the support of the local administration and Italian associations: perhaps unconsciously and due to the hope of assimilation that affects immigrant societies (i.e. children of immigrants will be more integrable than their parents), the leading role of the second generation is sought and promoted, even on the religious front. In fact, the orientation has for some time now been of an inclusive type in Turin. After the period of presentation of different cultures, religions and languages as alternative elements to everyday life of the city, a phase has begun in which attention is devoted to how a person of foreign origin and a Muslim can ever be considered an Italian citizen (and a citizen of Turin), without necessarily relegating the expression of their religiosity in their private sphere.

The protagonists of this period are young people, the second generation, on whom the administration has decided to focus, considering them as “new Italians” and promoting their leading roles.

The Turin experience seems to show a change of tone and pick up the signals of a breakdown in the manners and contents between first- and second-generation Muslims relations with the Italian society. The instances are more general, related to their recognition as actors and a significant part of the socio-cultural context of the city. The concerns are related to awareness-raising activities and informing citizens about the development and transformations of generations which are taking place within the Muslim presence. The ground on which we are moving seems to be more and more that of “symbolic religiosity” (Gans, 1994), in which the religious identities of the second generation are only loosely tied to beliefs and practices rather than held together and strengthened by belonging together to an association. Through symbolic religiosity, affiliation to Islam can result in recognition of a common Muslim identity, shared by and practiced within the associations’ activities, but not necessarily tied to the observance of practices. Therefore, there is a dissociation between a practicing Muslim and the one who recognizes a cultural reference and identity in Islam. On this distinction, new demands and new relationships (more on the side of collaboration and partnership than breaking off and contrast) with the local reality take place. The aim is not so much the outright recognition of their practices and specificity as that of the right to diversity and the promotion of intercultural policies, in which the religious difference is one of the elements of the city’s social fabric and not a factor of conflict.

The match (yet to be played) refers to the ability of Islamic associationism of the second generation not to remain “forever young” and to be able to learn how to combine the demands of neo-Italians with those of older generations. In other words, after overcoming the phase of retreat to their origins, they look towards the future. A future where becoming adults (and the assumption of new family responsibilities), is already on the horizon and the appearance of a generation of older people who will consult, once again, religious associationism and the city about needs that go beyond taking care of one’s soul.

[1] This contribution modifies and improves some papers already published using the same qualitative interviews.

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  • Serjio changed the title to Р. Рикуччи. Взросление в тени Святой Плащаницы. Второе поколение мусульман в Италии

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