Sharing stories of Muslim integration in Italy


Yalla Italia is an ambitious media project developed in Milan, Italy to help the Muslim and Italian communities bond, in mutual understanding, via articles written in the magazine.

Meaning Let’s Go, Italy, Yalla Italia stands out from a desolate landscape of xenophobia as a manifestation of true multicultural spirit. But can a website bridge two cultures as distant as the Italian and the Muslim ones?
Italy is one of the few European countries that has not yet decided how to deal with the massive immigration it is experiencing. The immigration phenomenon is relatively new (it started in the late ‘80s). Previously, Italy never had multicultural experiences.

As a matter of fact, Italy never had colonies (minus the short African experience of the ‘30s) and never really developed an open culture, one willing to accept and understand different cultures.

This resulted in serious problems when immigrants started to flow in from Albania and Eastern Europe. The tension spiked with the influx of Muslim immigrants, though, especially after the terrorist attacks of 9/11.

Italians’ unwillingness to distinguish decent people from terrorists escalated, ushering in the political party Rome Lega Nord (Northern League), a group founded on ideas such as torpedoing incoming immigrants’ ships before they reach Italian’s shores (as stated by Secretary Umberto Bossi, now Minister of Reforms).
The articles written on Yalla Italia, which is both a printed magazine and a blog, are mainly concerned with the Italian and Muslim culture. The magazine targets both audiences.

To Italians, Yalla Italia explains the background of Ramadan; Muslims are treated to suggestions on how to pair kaftans with jeans.

Interestingly enough, most of the publication’s reporters are women, second-generation immigrants who have integrated into local society. They are willing to share their experiences and advise others in an attempt to bridge cultures.

Coming to Italy, especially from countries such as Iran or Sudan, can be a disruptive experience. A quick glimpse at local TV programs reveals a completely different world to the eyes of these people.

Despite the contrasts, though, many manage to integrate successfully. Ali Hassoun, a Lebanese citizen who married an Italian, wrote in Yalla Italia about mixed marriages:  “We live our cultural and religious differences like an enrichment for each other”.

These people work and pay taxes to the Italian government, meaning they deserve the very same respect and treatment we grant Italians.

Now more than ever it’s imperative to promote initiatives that can help both communities in understanding each other. Yalla Italia is one of these initiatives. Even if it’s just a drop in the ocean, it raises the bar for others to follow.

Flickr image from user schase