Gherush92, a human rights organization that consults for UN bodies on racism and discrimination, is calling for Dante's "Divine Comedy" to be removed from schools and acknowledged as racist, homophobic, Islamophobic, and anti-Semitic.
According to Valentina Sereni, the group's president, the 14th-century work is "offensive and discriminatory" and has no place in the classroom.
For those who have never read Dante's epic, it follows a fictional version of the author through hell, purgatory, and heaven in three distinct works, the "Inferno," "Purgatorio," and "Paradiso."
The foundation of the modern Italian language and a staple in American English classes, the "Inferno," in particular, is drawing fire. In it, hell is divided into nine circles where people are placed according to how they lived: limbo, lust, gluttony, greed, anger, heresy, violence, fraud, and treachery. Each circle has its own unique form of eternal punishment.
According to The Telegraph:
It represents Islam as a heresy and Mohammed as a schismatic and refers to Jews as greedy, scheming moneylenders and traitors, Miss 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 [also] damned by the work as being 'against nature' and condemned to an eternal rain of fire in Hell.
Though it is true that Dante condemned Mohammed and homosexuals to the Inferno, Sereni and The Telegraph fail to note that the author placed prominent Christians right next to them.
Many "clergymen, popes, and cardinals" were condemned to the circle of greed, where they had to joust with one another for all eternity using great weights which they pushed with their chests. Similarly, Pope Anastasius II was damned to the circle of heresy, where he is trapped in a flaming tomb, and the soles Pope Nicholas III's feet will always be tickled with fire while his head is trapped inside a large rock.
This leads one to ask, why isn't the organization offended by the eternal torture of Christians?
Many think the censorship of Dante's "Divine Comedy" represents censorship of history, and are leaping to the book's defense. Franco Grillini, the head of a gay rights organization, has said that the move marks "an excess of political correctness," and Giorgio Rembado, the president of an Italian head teachers' association, reminded that, "Works of literature need to be placed in the historical context."
Gherush92 has responded that, if the book is not to be taken out of classrooms, offensive passages should at the least have a modern explanation nearby. "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."