Poetry News

The Odd Call to Ban Dante's Divine Comedy

By Harriet Staff

MobyLives points us to the news that a human rights group is calling to ban the work of Dante from Italian schools, having condemned Divine Comedy as "racist, homophobic, anti-Islamist and anti-Semitic." The group, called Gherush 92, is a research organization and consultant to UN bodies on racism and discrimination. The Telegraph reports:

Divided into three parts – Hell, Purgatory and Heaven – the poem consists of 100 cantos, of which half a dozen were marked out for particular criticism by the group.

It represents Islam as a heresy and Mohammed as a schismatic and refers to Jews as greedy, scheming moneylenders and traitors, [group president Valentina] Sereni told the Adnkronos news agency.

"The Prophet Mohammed was subjected to a horrific punishment – his body was split from end to end so that his entrails dangled out, an image that offends Islamic culture," she said.

Homosexuals are damned by the work as being "against nature" and condemned to an eternal rain of fire in Hell.

"We do not advocate censorship or the burning of books, but we would like it acknowledged, clearly and unambiguously, that in the Divine Comedy there is racist, Islamophobic and anti-Semitic content. Art cannot be above criticism," Miss Sereni said.

Schoolchildren and university students who studied the work lacked "the filters" to appreciate its historical context and were being fed a poisonous diet of anti-Semitism and racism, the group said.

It called for the Divine Comedy to be removed from schools and universities or at least have its more offensive sections fully explained.

Ellie Robins at MobyLives writes, "The idea that critical faculties are developed by consideration of great works from a broad range of historical and geographic sources seems to have passed them by. According to [the] Telegraph report, Italian cultural associations and gay rights groups rushed to the poet’s defence, saying that to ban the work would be an ‘excess of political correctness’. Now there’s an understatement."

Originally Published: March 19th, 2012
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