ROZANO, Italy – The headmaster of an Italian primary school who decided to cancel Christmas to appease Muslim students in the wake of the Paris terrorist attacks has resigned under intense criticism.
Garofani School headmaster Marco Parma, 63, prompted protests and media outcry after his announced plans to cancel the school’s traditional Christmas concert for primary students in favor of a rebranded, non-religious “winter concert” set for January, the Guardian reports.
Parma also reportedly also denied to requests from parents to teach children Christmas carols during their lunch breaks.
“In a multi-ethnic environment, it causes problems,” Parma said.
“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,” he said. “It is not nice watching a child not singing, or worse, being called down from the stage by their parents.”
About 80 percent of the Garofani School’s 1,000 students are Christian, and the majority of the remainder are Muslim, according to the news site.
The decision sparked protests from parents last week, as well as condemnation from Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi, The Washington Post reports.
“Christmas is much more important than a headmaster being provocative,” Renzi told an Italian news site, according to the Post. “If he thinks he is promoting integration and coexistence in this way, he appears to me to have made a very big mistake.”
The Italian bishop’s conference daily newspaper L’Avvenire called the decision “a mistaken choice resulting from an excess of laicism and ideology,” the Associated Press reports.
Ironically, Muslim parents at the Garofani School told the Independent Parma is creating a problem from nothing.
“Who are us Muslims to say what can happen at an Italian school?” said Garofani parent Mahmoud El Kheir, who is originally from Egypt. “We are guests in this country. I hope the public understand that the decision was not made because of a request by Muslim parents.”
El Kheir’s wife, Laila Magar, said the family’s twins – Fatma and Yassin – have participated in Christmas activities, including singing “traditional Catholic songs” with their peers at school.
“Why create a problem that doesn’t exist?” she questioned.
“Debate and dialogue does not mean drowning identities in an indistinct and insipid form of political correctness,” Prime Minister Renzi said. “All Italians, both non-religious and Christians, will never give up Christmas.”
Matteo Salvini, head of the anti-immigration Northern League, called on Parma to resign over the debacle, and he apparently got what he wanted.
After insisting he would step down rather than back down, Parma did exactly that, though he continues to insist the school’s teachers back his decision.
The Deutsche Welle news site reports Parma denied allegations he also planned to ban crucifixes from the school’s classrooms. An Italian law instituted by Benito Mussolini still requires crucifixes in all school rooms, according to the site.