New Humanity Movement

Ethnicities and Cultures


A meeting with the Secretary General of the Italian Islamic Cultural Center, Dr. Abdellah Redouane, a really special Roman citizen. He tells us about his relationship with the Eternal City, the life of the islamic community, which in particular works in Rome, so that integration can really become an opportunity of growth for the whole city. A look at Project City.

Interview by Paolo Balduzzi- Rome

When from the different corners of Rome you look for a particular feature of the skyline, you immediately recognize San Peter's dome, Trinità dei Monti, the most important palaces, and the most beautiful churches. However, if you look a bit further north, you can detect a building, which surely is not a church, but captures your interest, because of the fascination that radiates from it, because of the light that during every single hour lights up and embellishes the different sides of this mosque. It was designed by Paolo Portoghesi, and it is the largest mosque in Europe, a real architectural jewel. You can understand all this, also from the value that all the surroundings of this important temple have regained since its building, almost 45 years ago.

It is the third time that I enter this place, and this morning it is almost desert. Everybody is at work. That's the case of  Abdellah Redouane too: he is the Secretary General of the Italian Islamic Cultural Center, that hosts the mosque. The Center, the only islamic organization officially recognized by the Italian Government with a decree of the President of the Republic since 1974, takes care of a number of religious and cultural services, that all attain the life of the community present in Rome and in the rest of the country.

Married with two children, Redouane is here at home: he has been living in Rome for 12 years, and considers himself an active part of the city.

How did you arrive in Rome?
“As an Italian organization, the Center has its own staff, with a board, and a general assembly. When these social bodies asked various countries to suggest a candidate to Secretary General, Morocco, my country, contacted the Ministry of Religious Affairs, where I worked, and this explains my arrival in Rome. I was also Head of Staff of the Minister, and Director General of the Study Center, and spokesman. With this course, you can understand, that my candidacy was considered one the most interesting ones for Rome, and perhaps even the most suitable one”.

What is the office of Secretary General of the Center?
“The Secretary General is the executive officer of the Board, that makes the strategic decisions. My and my collaborators' job is to design concrete policies, based on those decisions. Moreover I represent the Center with the Italian institutions, and the civil society”.

MoschearomaHow was this Center born?
The Center was born out of double wish. On one hand a lot of Muslim people that lived in Rome had expressed their wish to have here a House of God. At the same, the city institutions supported this “desire”, and therefore the city of Rome offered this lot, where we are now, and the mosque and the Center were born in 1966. This is the important thing, the House of God cannot be imposed, but has to come from the wish and the right of the those who ask for it, and the city institutions, but also from the people, that live in the surroundings”.

What is the reason to have a Cultural Center close to a house of prayer?
The Cultural Center and the Mosque are complementary elements. Praying is adoring God, and all the other structures help in integration and prayer, since any action can be an act of prayer. We have a school that was born out of an explicit request we had received; currently it is attended for 98% by Italian and non-Muslim students, who want to learn Arab, and it is a very nice and successful example of “cultural bridge”. Moreover if we think that Arab is linked to the Koran, which is the language of the Revelation, you immediately understand why culture and prayer go arm in arm”.

What kind of other activities does the Center take care of?
“These are value-added activities for the city and the world, that allow us to share the life of the city, and be a part of its landscape, both geographically and socially. For example on Saturday and on Wednesday the Center is open to visitors, a lot of people come from abroad, just because of the mosque; however there are also architecture students that come from Germany and the US, and from all over the world. We take part in cultural and social events, like for example the “Marathon”, whose route runs right behind here.
We have contacts with other associations, we would like to collaborate with, even if we cannot satisfy all the requests we get, as we do not have enough resources. Together with the Vatican and Rome Municipality we take part in all the major initiatives in the field of the inter-religious and cultural dialogue”.

Then, do you feel yourself as an active part of the city?
“I guess I can say that the Center is so much involved with the city, that we cannot but get engaged also in all the problems, Rome has. There is an extraordinary go-between, which is the civil society, which established a link between us and the political authorities, brought about a climate of esteem and reciprocal respect; all this made us collaborate with the same commitment, to solve together a lot of common city problems: this is part of our living together, that generates joy, but also some problems; these can be the problem of local transportation, or waste treatment, or also market locations; these are all problems that we can solve with dialogue and reciprocal comprehension. I think that, as far as relations with citizens are involved, 80% of the problems can be solved with mutual respect. That's why we are an active part of the city! We are part of the 2nd District of the Municipality of Rome, and I consider it as my own, I don't feel myself as a foreigner, because I live for the same things you live for”.

(to be continued)

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