What If It’s True We Get the Politicians We Deserve?

Despite the previous assurances of the mayor of Bologna, Sergio Cofferati, and of his city planner, Virginio Merola, the mosque meant to serve Bologna’s Muslims will not be built—at least not for a while. If and when it is built, it will be smaller and located on another site.

The mayor swears that his voltafaccia has nothing whatever to do with political pressure from the right: the crypto-fascists of the Alleanza Nazionale (Gianfranco Fini’s grayshirts, who promote “classic western conservative politics,” and who split off in 1995 to dissociate themselves from the “rearguard of the Fascist party”) and the plain-old right wing, Forza Italia, the party of San Silvio d’Arcore, Silvio Berlusconi, who leaves most of the truly reactionary and jingoistic rhetoric to his National Coordinator, Sandro Biondi, sort of a cross between Mr. Magoo and Joseph Goebbels.

No, it was because of an outcry from the residents of the San Donato neighborhood in the northeast corner of Bologna, the area (about 7 km from our house) where the mosque was to be built. Had Cofferati and his city council previously “underestimated” the concerns of those living in the area? No, the mayor insists: “I wouldn’t say there had been any underestimation. It’s simply a new request from the residents that we want to evaluate.” (Il Bologna, 19 September 2007, p. 20)

And I hope that clears things up. That the citizens had been whipped into a frenzy by the racist rantings of local and national politicians had nothing to do with it. Nor did Roberto Calderoli’s September 13th proposal to protest the “Islamization of Europe” generally and the Bologna mosque explicitly by holding “Maiale Day.”

Specifically, Calderoli proposed that the city of Bologna send a drove of swine to graze on the site of the proposed mosque on “Maiale Day” (“Pig Day”) in order to “profane the earth.” He kindly offered to make the services of his own pig available. Such a response, Calderoli argued, was appropriate “wherever anyone is thinking of building not a place of worship but a potential gathering place for a terrorist cell.” (L’Unità, 13 September 2007)

Calderoli, by the way, is the Vice-President of the Italian Senate and the National Coordinator of the Lega Nord per l’Indipendenza della Padania (the Northern League, whose pet project since 1996 has been for the north to secede from Italy and create the independent nation of Padania, from which immigrants, darkies, southern Italians, the poor, the unemployed, half-breeds, race mongrels, and assorted other gypsies, tramps, and thieves would be excluded).

This is the same Calderoli who, when Italy defeated France in the 2006 World Cup, chided France for having “sacrificed its identity” by “fielding niggers, Muslims and communists,” and the same Calderoli who responded to a surge in organized-crime-related violence in Naples last November by commenting that “Naples today is a sewer that needs to be cleaned up and rid of all its rats.”

It’s the same Calderoli who, in February 2006, during a moment of international tension following the September 2005 publication by the Danish newspaper, Jyllands-Posten, of a series of satirical cartoons critical of Islam, wore a T-shirt emblazoned with one of the drawings (in which Muhammad is depicted with a bomb in his turban). He displayed the T-shirt during a news interview on national Italian television. Protests followed at the Italian embassy in Libya, where at least eleven people died and twenty-five were injured.

One can’t help but think, of course, of the hysterical and wounded outcry of the Catholic hierarchy last June because marchers at Roma Pride carried pictures of Pope Ratz in drag or wore homemade cardboard miters covered with lots of glitter. Benedetto with a little lipstick: BLASPHEMY! Muhammad with horns: Good clean fun.

Anyway, one begins to see a pattern.

Responding to the news that Bologna had blocked, at least temporarily, the building of the mosque, Bologna’s Catholics planned a “pilgrimage”—organized by the Lega Nord—to the Basilica of the Madonna di San Luca in order to thank god for having spared the city from danger.

Calderoli, for his part, said he planned to celebrate by dining on pork chops.


Posted on 20 September 2007, in Italy, Italian, Italians (in that order) and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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