An Italian headmaster has been forced to resign after he scrapped his school’s Christmas carol concert following the Paris attacks in a move that sparked outrage across the country.
Marco Parma, 63, decided to ban traditional festivities at Garofani school in Rozano, near Milan, so as not to cause offence to non-Christian pupils.
Instead he planned to organise an evening of song in January, transforming the event into a winter concert rather than a celebration of Christmas.
But the move provoked anger among parents of pupils at the school, riled politicians of all stripes and prompted calls for intervention by the education minister.
Matteo Renzi, Italy’s prime minister and leader of the Democratic Party, expressed indignation that political correctness had been allowed to get in the way of such an important part of Italian culture.
“Discussion and dialogue does not mean to say we can drown our identity for the sake of a vague and insipid form of political correctness,” he told Corriere della Sera. “Italians, both non-religious and Christians, will never give up Christmas.”
Politicians from Silvio Berlusconi‘s centre-Right Forza Italia party urged Stefania Giannini, education minister, to step in and change the headmaster’s mind, while Northern League leader Matteo Salvini tried to phone Mr Parma on a radio show, warning that “cancelling traditions is a favour for terrorists”.
“Just think how Isis is taking us for fools as they listen to us,” said the head of the anti-immigrant party, using one of the acronyms for Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (Isil).
Parents of all faiths were outraged at the ban at the school, which teaches 1,000 children, 20 per cent of whom were born to non-Italians. Several turned up at the gates last week demanding an explanation from Mr Parma. Others began preparing a petition after they learnt that the school’s board had also decided to remove crucifixes from classrooms.
The headmaster later handed in his resignation. Prior to resigning, Mr Parma denied that his decision was a step backwards in the fight against radical Islam.
“I believe that respecting the sensitivities of people of different religions or cultures is a step forward towards integration,” he said. “This is a multiethnic school.”
Barbara Agogliati, mayor of Rozzano, said she would ask the school to reinstate the traditional concert.
The controversy comes just days after a chain of nurseries in northern Tuscany decided not to set up a nativity scene for fear of offending non-Christian pupils and parents.