For the next three Sundays, the pool at Polisportiva Bissuola di Mestre will be open only to women and their children between 9am and 10.30am, the Veneto edition of Corriere reported on Thursday.
The move, launched in coordination with the Italian Union of Sports for All (Usip), is “an opportunity to promote integration and raise awareness of women from different backgrounds,” Ugo Di Mauro, the president of the Bissuola sports club, was quoted as saying in Corriere. Their faith prevents many muslim women from using mixed swimming pools.
If successful, the initiative will be extended, Di Mauro added.
He was inspired to follow in the footsteps of a Turin sports club, which adopted the initiative and saw a 50 percent increase in the number of women using the pool.
“There was real integration, and it was an important opportunity to pave the way towards opening up links and expanding knowledge; we hope the same thing happens here.”
More than 1.5 million Muslims live in Italy, according to figures from the Pew Research Centre, making them Italy’s second-largest religious group.
Despite this, Islam is not an officially recognized religion, making it difficult for Muslims organizations to get funding through the Italian law that allows taxpayers to allocate part of their taxes to a religious group of their choice.
Efforts to recognize Islam in Italy, even unofficially, are often slammed by the separatist Northern League.
When former Prime Minister Enrico Letta said earlier this year that the government was exploring the possibility of building an Islamic museum in Venice, the party hit back by saying, “how can the government throw money at an Islamic museum?”, and especially when Venice has “so many other problems with its cultural heritage”, such as the threat of rising sea levels.