Italian headmaster’s Christmas carol ban comes under fire

© Alessandro Bianchi
Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi has slammed the headmaster of a school near Milan for canceling Christmas concerts and carols due to the potential “problems caused by the multi-ethnic environment.”

“Christmas is much more important than a headmaster being provocative,” Renzi told Corriere della Sera newspaper.

“If [the headmaster] thinks he is promoting integration and co-existence in this way, he appears to me to have made a very big mistake,” the Italian PM added.

“Discussion and dialogue does not mean to say we can drown out identity for the sake of a vague and insipid form of political correctness. Italians, both non-religious and Christians, will never give up Christmas,” Renzi concluded.

Headmaster Marco Parma, 63, made the decision to put off the traditional Christmas concert until January for primary school students at Garofani comprehensive school in Rozzano, just outside Milan.

Instead, Parma offered to stage a “winter concert” without any religious songs.

“In a multi-ethnic environment, it causes problems. 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,” Parma said, as quoted by AFP.

“It’s not nice watching a child not singing, or worse, being called down from the stage by their parents,” the headmaster added.

Earlier, the school’s authorities banned two mothers from teaching schoolchildren Christmas carols.

The headmaster’s move triggered an outraged response, mainly from right-wing parties: politician Matteo Salvini, from the Lega Nord party, urged authorities to fire Parma immediately.

The mayor of Rozano, Barbara Agogliati, said that she would ask the school to reinstate the concert.

Parma, in turn, said he is ready to step down if needed, and that his decision has been backed by teachers at the school.

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What’s more, Parma said that the collective rendition of Christmas carols could be interpreted by the Muslim community as a "perilous provocation", especially following the Paris attacks on November 13, the Italian daily Avvenire reported the headmaster as saying.

Garofani comprehensive school has about 1,000 students, around 20 percent of whom are non-Christian, mostly Muslim.

Italy hasn’t had an official state religion since 1984. Despite that, a legislation on mandatory Catholic crucifixes at schools – dating from Fascist dictator Benito Mussolini’s time – has never been revoked.