Italy’s Far-right Opposes Muslim Swim Class

Reuters / Tim Wimborne

A swimming pool in northern Italy has supported an initiative by the local Islamic center and announced courses, specially designed for Muslim women. The effort, planned as way of social integration, is not welcomed by Italian right-wingers.

The project, launched in Sesto San Giovanni in the suburbs of Milan, is in its second year, Italian Corriere della Sera reported. The organizers of the swimming course for Muslim women say it’s designed not only as a sporting activity, but also as a way to socialize.

No full swimming suit (a burkini) is needed, but the women are required to wear a wetsuit with sleeves and knee-length shorts, as well as a swimming cap. Female instructors are another strict rule.

The course, scheduled to start in January next year, is open to Muslim women of all nationalities, and welcomes non-Muslims too. Hosted by the largest sports association in Sesto, it aims to help locals overcome religious and social prejudices, and is “an important movement of integration.”

The idea’s opponents argue the swimming course is “a classic example of reverse discrimination,” comparing it to “outdated traditions,” such as separate bathing areas for men and women, long abandoned in Italy.

When conducted out “of respect for the observance of Islamic rules, everything is permitted,” Viviana Beccalossi, head of the right-wing Brothers of Italy National Alliance party said, as quoted by Corriere della Sera. “Otherwise we are accused of racism. After asking us to remove crucifixes from public places, to remove the nativity scene from schools… it is now the pool. Who knows what will come next,” she said.

In May, members of another Italian right-wing party had already protested against swimming pools for Muslims. Supporters of the Forza Nuova (New Force) far-right group staged a demonstration in Venice, where a special women-only time slot was organized to allow Muslim women to swim.

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