Venice pool bans men to integrate Muslims

A sports club in Mestre, a suburb of Venice, is banning men from the pool and offering women-only sessions only as part of an experiment to integrate the Muslim community.

Venice pool bans men to integrate Muslims
Swimming pool photo: Shutterstock

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.

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Italy scoops first Paralympic gold medal

Swimmer Federico Morlacchi has won the first gold for Italy at the 2016 Paralympics.

Italy scoops first Paralympic gold medal
Federico Morlacchi. Photo: Ben Stansall/AFP

His medal is also Italy's 500th at the Paralympic games.

After winning silver in the 400m freestyle (S9), Morlacchi scooped gold in the 200m individual medley (SM9) on Sunday, his time of 2:16:72 allowing him to beat Hungarian Tamas Sors and Australian Timothy Disken.

“This is the top of the world,” Morlacchi said, according to Gazzetta dello Sport. “I had fun. I haven't really realized what I have done yet.”

He celebrated by punching the water and blowing a kiss to his supporters in the stands, but said that he never cries at a win. “My job is to make others emotional.”

The president of Italy's Paralympics Committee, Luca Pancalli, said: “I'm indescribably happy. Federico deserves everything, he's a phenomenal guy. This medal was a masterpiece.”

It was the fifth Paralympic medal of his career for 22-year-old Morlacchi, who is from the Varese region and went home from the 2012 games in London with three bronze medals.

The S9 category is for athletes with “severe weakness in one leg” and Morlacchi has hypoplasia (incomplete tissue development) in his left leg. He initially took up swimming for rehabilitation as a young child.