Our Country is Too Permissive. These Families Must Be Stopped

Souad Sbai: Diversity is not always a value

“If you only knew how many stories of abuse there are in Italy among girls like Farah… They are not isolated cases. I keep making my voice heard and denounce them. But this country remains indifferent, and I cannot understand why.”

Souad Sbai, an Italian-Moroccan journalist and activist for women’s rights especially in the Muslim world, is outraged on the phone.

Who is responsible in these cases?

“The state who does not care about the fate of the second-generation immigrants, especially if women. According to a survey by the Lombard Observatory, among young Muslims between 15 and 25 years of age, only 1 out of 4 feels to be Italian in all respects. These are youths who were born here, raised in the midst of Western values, and then left in the hands of patriarchal and radical communities, where purported imams subdue family units and subject them to exhausting controls.”

How do you stop this perverse chain?

“By disintegrating multiculturalism, rejecting diversity as a value in the cases in which it is a mere disvalue. It is in the name of this laxity that the state turns a blind eye, sometimes two, when the families of Muslim immigrants leave their children at home at the age of 11, after the primary school.”

At 11 years?

“Yes. Secondary schools are a dangerous border. At 15, a young girl has already become a woman, and has most likely absorbed Western feelings and behaviors. If you do not go to class, this risk is eliminated. Therefore, instead of promoting integration, we Italians are the first accomplices to a backward Islamism working against the future.”

The common trait of the most resounding news stories – Nina, Sana, now Farah – is a patriarchal idea of the family, whereby women are subject to submission: a deranged idea. Is religion an irrelevant component, or does the Muslim context enhance this idea in some way?

“Facing a truly secular and interventionist state, the excuses that are often used, such as the respect of tradition or to freedom of worship, would not have a way out.”

There are only ten officially recognized mosques in Italy. The rest are prayer centers hosted in makeshift structures Too many free zones?

“Identity extremism is the most dangerous enemy. Woe to turn our back on this issue. In Morocco, if an 11-year-old girl does not go to school, the police arrives and arrests their parents. In Pakistan, it took only two days to jail Sana’s father, who then confessed to have been her killer. Italian Islam does not work for integration. Do you know what my Maghreb sources for women’s rights tell me? You Italians stay away, because you pollute us.”

Is your old polemic against UCOII (Union of Italian Islamic Communities) regaining its strength?

“It has never lost it. The voice of those who, like me, despite being born in a Muslim country, has a secular idea of life is indispensable in the debate on the issues related to integration.”

Born in Morocco, you arrived in Italy in 1981. You are an Italian citizen, and you have also been a Member of Parliament. If today you were a young, second-generation immigrant student, what would you ask Italy?

“Always defend me, even by my family if necessary. And also help me to protect myself from those who work for self-segregation. This is a country in which entire communities are seized by unscrupulous purported religious figures.”