‘Crucifixes are obligatory in schools and offices’

The mayor of Padua, in north-east Italy, announced on social media that crucifixes must be hung on the walls of all schools and offices across the city.

'Crucifixes are obligatory in schools and offices'
The mayor's announcement received a mixed reaction in Italy. Crucifix photo: Shutterstock

Massimo Bitonci announced the new rule on Facebook on Wednesday.

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Accompanying the post was a picture of Bitonci, a Northern League (Lega Nord) senator who was elected mayor earlier this month, smiling and clutching a crucifix.

The news received a mixed reaction from Italians, with comments posted ranging from “well done” to “ridiculous”.

“Great Bitonci, everyone should be like you,” wrote one Facebook user, while another expressed the opposing opinion: “Italy is a secular country! Whoever wants to impose a religious simple is disrespectful of others and should be stopped! Bitonci, feel ashamed!”

The Padua area has been the centre of the debate over crucifixes in schools in recent years, following a legal battle started in the town of Abano Terme.

Soile Lautsi, whose two sons attended a school in the town, went to court in 2002 in a bid to have crucifixes removed from the walls of her children’s classrooms.

The legal battle ran through the Italian and European courts, until the European Court of Human Rights in 2011 ruled against Lautsi.

“A crucifix on a wall was an essentially passive symbol,” the ruling said, which was not seen as having an influence on pupils despite being “above all a religious symbol”. 

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Muslim model defies insults over Miss Italy bid

A young model of Moroccan origin is determined to ignore insults and threats she has received on social media and pursue her dream of becoming Miss Italy.

Muslim model defies insults over Miss Italy bid
Ahlam El Brinis, 20, was born in Padua to Moroccan parents. Photo: Valter Parisotto

Ahlam El Brinis, 20, was born in Padua to Moroccan parents and has been selected for the semi-final of the Miss Italy beauty contest, which will take place in the coastal town of Jesolo on September 20th.

She lives in Montebelluna near Treviso.

“I would like to keep religion out of Miss Italy,” she told Italian media.

“Miss Italy is a beauty contest, religion doesn’t enter into it and I don’t want everything focused on that.”

El Brinis was selected for the title of Miss Elegance for the north-east region of Friuli Venezia Giulia and is due to take part in the semi-final of this year’s national contest.

Her provocative photographs featuring her in scantily clad bikinis and lingerie have provoked a barrage of insults and threats against her on social media for dishonouring Islam.

“Insults and threats don’t hurt me,” she told La Tribuna di Treviso newspaper.

“I will follow my own path. I have the total support of my family and my boyfriend Christian who uses social media to defend me.”

El Brinis says she was raised Muslim but is a non-practising Muslim.

“Everyone is free to choose and follow their religion in their own way,” she said in an interview. “I am aware that there are more conservative people who might think that I am mistaken about what I do.

“But honestly that doesn’t interest me because I have my family’s support and that is enough for me.

“Whoever is attacking me has an old-fashioned attitude. They are writing about me on Facebook, they are offending me. What I am doing wrong by modeling?” 

El Brinis declined to comment further when contacted by The Local.