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Sicily’s Islamic heritage highlighted

Islam has left an indelible mark on Sicily's culture, which has survived until the present day, an Italian academic said here Thursday.
Francesca Corrao, a professor of Arabic culture and language at the LUISS University in Rome, said the island played an important role in transmitting knowledge from east to west.
LUISS stands for the Libera Università Internazionale degli Studi Sociali Guido Carli, or the Guido Carli Free International University for Social Studies.
Corrao made the comments in a lecture on board the Italian aircraft carrier, Cavour. The ship is part of the 30th Italian Naval Fleet, which is visiting Saudi Arabia as part of the 80th anniversary of Saudi-Italian diplomatic relations.
"Discoveries show that this small island was important in the transmission of knowledge from east to west. We use many things of Islamic origin in our daily lives," Corrao said.
She said it was important for people to learn about other cultures to promote understanding and cooperation. She said the influence of Muslims, including Arabs, can be seen in pottery and ceramics found at archeological sites. A bath owned by a Norman king shows that Islamic influence remained long after Muslims left the island.
Corrao said Arabs and Sicilians share many common fishing terms. In addition, the Arabs introduced a system of watering to the islanders. “Before they arrived, we didn’t have gardens, oranges, lemons, bananas, or dates.”
Sicilian and Tunisian brides use similar marriage boxes. “That is something beautiful and simple that we have in common. Even the churches were built in Islamic style. We learned a lot from the Arab world. The Mediterranean is like a mirror reflecting humanity,” she said.
Corrao said Italy has "important links with the Arab world" and that it was important to continue sharing knowledge. "It is through knowledge that we fight fear, war and misunderstanding, especially for our children and our future. We have a duty to solve problems and have the opportunity to find harmonious solutions. Listening and understanding is our mission,” she said.
The audience on the vessel included Simone Petroni, the Italian consul general, and Paolo Treu, the admiral and commander of the group.
Treu said: “It is part of our mission to strengthen, deepen and further promote political, economic, social and cultural cooperation.”
Diego Roma, project manager at Translize, said he found Corrao's talk interesting. “Living in Saudi Arabia for nearly 30 years I know that Islam had some connection in the past with Italy, but I didn’t know what exactly. It enhanced my knowledge and understanding,” he said.
Mohammad Raffi, a businessman, said he was at the event because of his interest in the spread of Islam in the Mediterranean. He said he did not know much about Sicily, and the spread of Islam there. “I read about it in Malta and the south of Spain but this is the first time I had an opportunity to learn about Islam in Sicily. I'm thinking of traveling there so I came to attend to get more information as an intellectual pursuit,” he said.
Fatima Akram, a specialist at Nesma Training Center in Jeddah and an Italian of Indian origin, said she has read many books on the spread of Islam but did not know how it reached Sicily. She said the lecture would help change people's perception and widen their knowledge.

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