Abandon all hope, ye who enter here: Dante’s medieval classic the Divine Comedy has been condemned as racist, antisemitic and Islamophobic by a group calling for it to be removed from classrooms.
The epic poem, written in the 14th century, is split into three parts, tracing the poet’s journey through Inferno, Purgatorio and Paradiso. It is seen as one of the cornerstones of world literature. But the Italian human rightsorganisation Gherush92, which advises UN bodies on human rights issues, wants it to be removed from school curriculums, or at least used with more caution, because it is “offensive and discriminatory” and young people lack the “filters” to understand it in context.
Gherush92 singled out some particular cantos from Dante’s masterwork for criticism: Inferno’s 34th, which tells of Judas, endlessly chewed in the teeth of Lucifer, and 28th, in which Mohammed is depicted torn “from the chin down to the part that gives out the foulest sound”, as well as Purgatorio’s 26th, which shows homosexuals under a rain of fire in purgatory. The work, it says, slanders the Jewish people, depicts Islam as a heresy and is homophobic.
“We do not advocate censorship or burning but we would like it acknowledged, clearly and unambiguously, that in the Divine Comedy there is racist, Islamophobic and antisemitic content,” said Valentina Sereni, president of Gherush92, to the Adnkronos news agency. “Art cannot be above criticism.”