Negotiating Private to Public Transitions: The Case of Italian/French Muslim Sufi Convert Community
This paper looks at the scope and preliminary results of my research on this private to public transition in the Ahmadiyya Idrisiyyah Shadhiliyyah Italian/French Sufi Muslim convert community. Specifically, I raise the question of how this transition is negotiated and what its potential impact is on the Muslim and European communities at large. The community was established in the 1960s in Italy by its current leader, Shaykh Abd al-Wahid Pallavicini. In its first years the community remained strictly private but its members have now moved from the privacy of their order to public engagement with the French and Italian states. Pallavicini has given Sufi Islam an unexpected visibility, marked by his participation in the 1986 ecumenical conference of Assisi with Pope John Paul II. Since then, the state has solicited him and his son, Yahya, to make official statements in the media and so, the community established the Communita Religiosa Islamica Italiana (COREIS) and the Institut des Hautes Etudes Islamiques (IHEI). Recognized by the French and Italian states, these public organizations participate in debates on citizenship by interacting with the public administration, media, academia and civil society through conferences, courses and exhibitions. This paper will show the impact of this religious community, with its representatives in fields like banking, food, inter-faith and inter-cultural dialogue, on the understanding of Islam within the European context.