ROME: Dante Alighieri's "Divine Comedy" -- an epic poem about travels through hell and heaven -- was racist and against Islam and should be banned from schools in Italy, a research group has said.
"The 'Divine Comedy' is the pillar of Italian literature and a cornerstone of Italian literature and the educational formation of the country's students," said Valentina Sereni, president of Gherush92, an anti-racism group that works for the UN.
"Students are taught the work's offensive and discriminatory language without any filter," she said.
Dante wrote the "Divine Comedy" between 1308 and his death in 1321 while in exile from Florence. The work was written in Tuscan Italian vernacular. In the epic poem, Dante's alter ego Pilgrim travels through hell, purgatory and heaven, and even meets god along the way.
During his adventure, Pilgrim encounters some of history's most important protagonists like Prophet Muhammad and Judas, who was guilty for Jesus Christ's death.
"We want to expunge the 'Divine Comedy' from the ministry of education's scholastic curriculum, or at least require the necessary commentary to shed light on the text," said Sereni.
Dante is one of Italy's most famous symbols, so Sereni has some arduous convincing to do.
"It's the umpteenth delirium of the politically correct," said Giulio Ferroni, literature professor at Rome's La Sapienza University.
"The only thing I can say without breaking into laughter is to keep your hands off of the 'Divine Comedy'," said Aurelio Mancuso, head of civil rights group Equality Italia.