Conservative Leader Recommends Teaching Islam in Public Schools

Rome, Italy - Islam should be taught in public schools, a leading conservative politician in Italy says. Gianfranco Fini, head of the right-wing National Alliance Party who served as foreign minister under the previous government of Silvio Berlusconi, told Italy's largest circulation magazine Panorama on Friday that a child wishing to study the Koran in school "has the right to do that as an optional course." "We need immigrants and they represent an opportunity, not a risk. Integration means first of all guaranteeing that immigrants have rights, the right to believe in their God and practice their religion," he added.

"At the same time we must demand that they accept our culture and abide by precise duties concerning the separation of the religious sphere from the public one," Fini also stressed.

Approximately one million Muslims live today in Italy, according to the latest report by Italian charity Caritas. Some 500,000 students in Italian schools are foreign and one third of them is Muslim.

Today, only Catholicism is taught in Italian public schools. Students however can choose not to attend Catholic religion courses, which start in kindergarten and carry on through until high school.