The Muslim Connection

Panorama: Muslims March for Peace

Today's immigrants to Torino are no longer southern Italians. And ailing FIAT, whose workforce has shrunk dramatically, no longer attracts workers to the city. The country's fastest-growing immigrant population today is Muslim and that was made abundantly clear to us when we went to the city's sprawling outdoor market, Porta Palazzo.

There, Muslim women in headscarves bought huge bunches of mint for mint tea alongside Italian women in furs buying artichokes. Many of the vendors were young Moroccans.

We had noticed the Muslim presence already on our first walk through the city center. We saw kebab places with meat twirling slowly on the spit and sweet baklava on the counter; we saw shops that sold hookahs and halal meat; we noticed Arab names on the list of residents outside apartment buildings.

Italy's Muslims now number about a million and most of them are in the north of the country, first in the Milan area and secondly in and around Torino. Like the southern Italians before them, they came mostly in search of work, mostly in food production or in factories. Work is scarce in Torino these days, though.

In the last few years, Italian authorities have arrested a small number of alleged Islamic militants in Italy and put them on trial, deporting some of them. Last September, authorities expelled a radical well-known Moroccan-born imam in Torino after he was deemed a "danger to public security."

Now, ahead of the Olympics, the police presence in the city is as strong as its ever been. And Torinesi tell me that Muslims are often the targets of police spot checks around town.

Probably because of all that, the Muslims in Torino seem to be feeling the pressure to show they're good citizens, much like Arab-Americans did in the States after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

As we left the market to walk through the nearby predominantly-Muslim neighborhood, we ran into a demonstration where hundreds of Muslims were preparing to march through the city to proclaim their commitment to peace - and their enthusiasm for the upcoming Olympic games.

"No to Violence. No to War. No to Terrorism. Yes to the Olympics," read one banner. "I'm not a foreigner. I'm an Italian citizen," read another.

By Daniela Deane |  January 22, 2006; 3:47 PM ET  | Category:  Torino
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