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October 29, 2006

Jihate in Italy

Filed under: Uncategorized — limewoody @ 8:03 am

THE Italian feminist politician Daniela Santanche has been given 24-hour police protection after her strident views on the Muslim veil drew an apparent death sentence from an imam.On a television chat show, Santanche, 45, an MP for the right-wing National Alliance party, clashed with Ali Abu Shwaima, the imam of a mosque near Milan.

“The veil isn’t a religious symbol and it isn’t prescribed by the Koran,” she said. “And in our country there is a law which forbids – for reasons of terrorism – people going around with masks on.”

Shwaima, an Italian national, retorted: “The veil is an obligation required by God. Those who do not believe that are not Muslims.

“You’re an ignoramus, you’re false. You sow hatred, you’re an infidel.”

The interior ministry, interpreting Shwaima’s insults as the equivalent of a fatwa — a religious edict calling for her murder — swiftly gave Santanche an armed bodyguard.

However, Shwaima insisted that he had never pronounced a fatwa, saying that the row over their debate had been “artfully created to cast a negative light on Islam”. He claimed that he was the one who needed protection, as critics had accused him of backing terrorism and his home address had been published in the newspapers.

Santanche had already created a stir in the Muslim world with her book, Woman Denied, which criticised Muslim women’s way of life and argued that they wore the veil only because their husbands, fathers or brothers forced them. The book was denounced by Iranian television and several Islamic websites.

Public debate over the wearing of the veil is a novelty for Italy, which has 1.2m Muslims, fewer than 5% of whom go to mosques.

Romano Prodi, the prime minister, was cautious this month when asked about the British debate over the issue. He said it was fine for women to wear a veil but “common sense” demanded that they should not conceal their faces.

Santanche is used to controversy. Last year she notoriously raised a middle finger to young people protesting at the government of Silvio Berlusconi, the then prime minister; she also proposed a “porn tax” to be levied on income derived from pornography. On her website she gives an account of the collapse of her first marriage and a guided tour of her home including the bathroom.

In a rare show of unity, Santanche’s left-wing political opponents are rallying to her support. “I want Mr Shwaima to know that threats, intimidation and condemnations are not acceptable in Italy,” said Barbara Pollastrini, minister for equal opportunities in the centre-left government.

Leaders of Italy’s Muslim community also expressed solidarity with Santanche. Souad Sbai, who heads the Union of Moroccan Women in Italy, called Shwaima “pseudo-religious”.

Santanche remains defiant: “You don’t imagine I’m going to give in? If I speak out it’s because Muslim women have asked me to. It’s time to turn our backs on the politically correct, it’s a question not of religion but of human rights,” she told The Sunday Times.

Of course she was afraid, she said, for herself and for her family. They now lived with bodyguards round the clock and she had been forced to give up using her bicycle: “But what I’m going through is nothing compared to the suffering of millions of women who are massacred, trampled on and pelted with stones.”

She was stunned to hear her 10-year-old son Lorenzo ask her what “condemned to death” meant. Perhaps he had heard the expression on the television news, she thought. “People talk like this in films,” she told him.

“So we’re in a film, mummy?” Lorenzo asked.

“Yes,” his mother had replied.

“I told him that because mummy is in politics, there are some people who don’t always agree with her. Having these guards with us just makes everything safer.”,,2089-2426599,00.html

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