Among those running for the elections this weekend to choose representatives for Rome's city council is Khalid Chaouki, the founder of a group known as the Young Muslims, an association that brings together second generation Muslim immigrants in Italy.
"The fact that a young Muslim is already a candidate on the same level as many other Italian citizens represents a new and important step," said Chaouki in an interview with Adnkronos International (AKI).
Chaouki is running as a candidate with the list of Francesco Rutelli, the centre-left Democrat Party nominee for mayor of Rome.
"The role of those elected to institutions is to try and explain that being Muslim is not an identity per se, but being a Muslim means being a person who takes to his heart the problems of the country and of the city in which he lives and who is convinced that politics or the participation in politics, is a commitment to the service for the common good," said Chaouki.
"The presence of Italian Muslims in institutions also serve make it normal for Muslim citizens to participate in the political life of the country."
However Chaouki also knows there its a long road to achieving this goal.
He could not hide his envy for the situation of second generation immigrants in neighbouring countries such as France where they have managed to occupy important positions in various departments such as the department of Justice.
"I want to know long it's going to take for the Italian society to evolve before it's possible for an Obama, the son of an immigrant, can dream to lead the country," he said.
Chaouki believes that the blame, in part, lies with the new Italian citizens.
"Certainly the antipathy that many Italians have towards politics in general is also present among the new citizens," he said.
"But it is necessary for us to participate in political life, in the life of political parties. The political forces, on their part, must then give ample space to issues such as immigration and integration."
Chaouki, was a member of Italy's Consulta Islamica, a government-appointed body created to represent the various Muslim groups in Italy, which he claims has not lived up to its potential.
"In the Consulta I have had a glimpse of a space in which one can open a dialogue between the diverse realities of Islam in Italy, but unfortunately not all of the components shared this spirit of dialogue and the need to create an Italian Islam."
"Some Muslim representatives of the Consulta wanted to transform it into a small parliament for Muslims in Italy, losing sight of its main objective, which is to open a direct dialogue with the Muslim community in Italy."
"For some members of the Consulta, mosques are only places of hate and terrorism and not places of worship with institutional rights," he said.
The candidate for Rome's adminstrative elections was critical of the Italian Islamic community, which he said is "lacking in a democratice and liberal culture and is "incapable of managing a civil confrontation between Muslims living in Italy."
Source: AKI (English)