A Muslim stronghold for about 200 years between the ninth and 11th centuries, Sicily bears the marks of Islamic history.
By Savin Mattozzi for Aljazeera
Palermo, Italy – The sound of about two dozen children practising Quran recitations fills the otherwise empty Islamic Cultural Center of Via Roma in Palermo, Italy.
Two break out of the group and start playing hide-and-seek between a curtain that separates the children’s section from the rest of the centre.
They are quickly ushered back to their place by Imam Sehab Uddin.
Home to more than 25,000 immigrants, many from majority Muslim countries such as Bangladesh, Palermo, has become a symbol of multiculturalism and integration that has been built on Sicily’s history.
A Muslim stronghold for about 200 years between the ninth and 11th centuries, the Mediterranean island – of which Palermo is the capital – still bears the marks of Islamic history both physically and culturally.
Ahmad Abd Al Majid Macaluso, the Imam of Palermo, walks through the San Giovanni degli Eremiti monastery and points to a discoloured section of wall.
He explains that was where the Mihrab used to be, the semi-circular carving in a mosque’s wall that faces the Kaaba in Mecca, the holiest site in Islam.
“Every church here used to be a mosque which used to be a synagogue which used to be a church which was a mosque,” he explains. “This is the history of Sicily.”