This year's annual Christmas concert was just canceled in the name of multiculturalism by the headmaster at an Italian elementary school near Milan. Marco Parma, head of the Garofani comprehensive primary school in the town of Rozzano, prompted protests from some parents and media attention when he announced the concert would be postponed until January, and rebranded as a winter concert that will not include any religious songs.
Italian prime minister Matteo Renzi and leader of the Democratic Party said in the Nov. 29 edition of Corriere della Sera, "Christmas is much more important than a headmaster being provocative. If he thinks he is promoting integration and co-existence in this way, he appears to me to have made a very big mistake."
The Guardian reports the school has approximately 1,000 pupils, with an estimated 20 percent, or one in five, of non-Christian faiths, primarily Islam.
"Discussion and dialogue do not mean to say we can drown our identity for the sake of a vague and insipid form of political correctness," Renzi told Corriere della Sera. "Italians, both non-religious and Christians, will never give up Christmas."
Parma, 63, reportedly confirmed he denied two mothers the chance to teach Christmas carols to the children during lunch breaks. "In a multiethnic environment, it causes problems," Parma said.
"Last year we had a Christmas concert, and some parents insisted on having carols. The Muslim children didn't sing, they just stood there, absolutely rigid. It is not nice watching a child not singing, or worse, being called down from the stage by their parents."
Parma maintained he was prepared to resign, rather than back down, and insisted he had the backing of the school's teachers after discussions about how to handle this sensitive, religious-oriented issue.
Parma denied press reports that stated he had banned crucifixes from classrooms. Catholicism has not been Italy's state religion since 1984, according to an AFP article. But a law dating from Fascist dictator Benito Mussolini's reign requiring the presence of crucifixes in schools was never revoked. There were, however, some reports that the school's board of directors had been discussing taking down any crucifixes.
A Nov. 29 article in The Telegraph reports Parma eventually was forced to resign. However, he was cited in the article as denying his decision was a step backward "in the fight against radical Islam."
"I believe that respecting the sensitivities of people of different religions or cultures is a step forward toward integration. This is a multiethnic school," he said.
Barbara Agogliati, mayor of Rozzano, told The Telegraph she plans to ask school representatives to reinstate the traditional concert.