Napolitano in Rome's Mosque, strengthen ties with South

President consoles Tunisian woman who seeks 'missing' son

23 April, 18:03

(ANSAmed) - ROME, APRIL 23 - The Islamic Cultural Conference Room inside Rome's Grand Mosque is packed with people. All are keenly awaiting the arrival of President Giorgio Napolitano.

There are high representatives of the Islamic community in Italy, as well as men and women who just want to celebrate an historic moment: the visit by Italy's head of state. President Napolitano arrives with Interior Minister Anna Maria Cancellieri and the Minister for Integration, Andrea Riccardi. And it is Riccardi's speech that puts the seal on a new pact of ''integration'' and living together. Riccardi recalls the 1970s, when the decision was taken to build this great mosque in Rome: ''The times and people's outlooks have changed so much since then''. The laying of the first stone by President Sandro Pertini in 1984 has been followed by a visit by President Oscar Luigi Scalfaro in 1997, and now this one by President Napolitano today. Riccardi remarks how ''the mosque's dome fits in well with all the other church domes in Rome,'' making the capital city ''a model for integration between religions and cultures''.

''Integration arises from differences. Many predicted after the September 11 attacks that there would be a clash between the West and Islam. Ten years later, the Arab Spring has drawn a different scenario: reasons for living together and getting on have multiplied''. President Napolitano appreciated this reference to the Arab Spring. We are ''focusing closely on the new governments that are being formed in the countries of the Arab Spring, such as that in Tunisia''. In a reference to his upcoming visit to Tunisia, the president noted the will that existed and the efforts being made ''to strengthen relations between the two shores of the Mediterranean''. All of the ensuing speeches concentrated on the theme of ''dialogue''. Mohammad al Gramdi, the Saudi Arabian Ambassador and Chair of the Islamic Cultural Centre noted ''the tolerance and friendliness of Italian society''. ''The Islamic community is among the most genuine components of Italian society''. ''We hope to receive the support of the tax advantages that are offered to other faiths and cultures''. The Imam of the mosque, Al'a al-Din Muhammad Isma'Il al Ghobashi, spoke of ''postive integration, which does not mean erasing one's roots''. Sheikh 'Abd al-Wahid Pallavicini of the Italian Islamic Religious Communities called the president's visit a ''sign of hope'' and of ''closeness to the whole of the Muslim community on Italian territory''. During the visit, a woman from Tunisia stopped President Napolitano and asked him in French for help in getting news about her son who had immigrated to Italy, with whom she had lost contact. The head of state listened carefully to her request and replied in French: ''Do not cry''. The woman is mother to twenty-year-old Mohammad Rawati, who arrived in Lampedusa on March 11 2011 with another forty immigrants, before being transferred to Trapani. In Italy for the past three months to find her son, the woman is sure she saw his face on at TV news report made as the immigrants were boarding a bus. Since then, the woman has heard nothing, but news reports speak of the boy having been identified by other immigrants in Trapani.



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