The Italianist

Things That Happen in Italy

The Virtuous Rulers

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Some Italian politicians are quite outspoken. In spite of a common opinion that wants them rather submitted to the main power, they can prove that, when they need to speak up for their ideals, they do not hesitate.

The last 24 hours have offered two displays of the virtue of political praxis. Both regard issues already appeared on this blog, namely the European Court of Human Rights ruling for the removal of crucifixes from Italy’s public schools, and the mysterious death of Stefano Cucchi in prison.

Yesterday, during the TV program “Domenica 5”, the discussion focused on the issue of crucifixes. Among the main participants, the president of the Islamic Centre of Milan, Ali Abu Schwaima, and the leader of the Right Wing Party “The Right”,  Daniela Santanchè. When confronted on the crucial issue of multiculturalism, she eventually decided to speak up, and display her political virtue:

“Enough with talking about equality and respect! – she bursts- Should we not admit that Mohammad was polygamous , since he had 9 wifes, and was a pedophile,  for one of them was 9 year-old? The ECHR should rather be concerned that in Saudi Arabia young girls are given to sheiks! Mohammad was, for our culture, a pe-do-phi-le!!” She looks around, to convey the message clearly to the audience, as she utters these words. “We are not interested in listening to those who worship a pe-do-phi-le!”

Moments of confusions follow. The Muslims who are in the room get quite angry. An old lady shows her support for Santanchè by shaking her head constantly for 12 minutes while the Muslims try to speak. People clap hands to praise Santanchè’s courage to speak up. When the order is partly reestablished, the anchor lady, Barbara D’Urso, says time’s off, sorry Abu Schwaima we need to stop before you can reply. However, there is time for her to attack the ECHR’s decision, and to say proudly: “From this TV studio, from my dressing room, no one is going to remove the crucifix!”. More details of this confrontation can be found here, and a video of it is here.

This is Daniela Santanchè:


She is famous for her campaign to liberate women. Her programme comprises the defeat of two main symbols of women slavery:

a) Prostitution. In order to emancipate women from the slavery of selling their body in the streets, Santanchè says we need to start legal brothels.  In them, women will (presumably) rather make love, and also have some freshly made tea or coffee. To those who point out that this is not much of a liberation from being used as a commodity, and that Santanchè seems concerned simply with ‘cleaning the streets’, she (virtuously) replies with no hesitation:


The second branch of the project for women’s liberation from slavery is to abolish the burqa. The latter, for Santanchè, is a symbol of oppression imposed by men. She refers to article 152 of the Penal Code, from 1975, which forbids “taking part in public events, in a place open to the public, wearing helmets, or with part or all the face covered in any way that can make it difficult to identify the person.” 

On this second part of the project, things got a bit rough for her on last 20th September.  Santanchè organised a protest in Milan in coincidence with Muslim celebration for the end of Ramadan. She claims to have been physically attacked by Muslims, apparently enraged by her attempt to take off the burqa from a woman taking part in the celebration. This caused outrage throughout Italy, to what was seen as the proof of Muslims’ unwillingness to integrate in Italy. (The meaning of “integration” being, as it normally happens in cases like these,  “abandonment of one’s own culture”.)

Some say that the aggression never took place and that, in fact, Santanchè made the story up, for propagandistic reasons. Those who hold this view must surely be polygamous and pedophile. Readers can test whether they are polygamous and/or pedophile too, by looking at the video-footage of “the aggression” and judge if Santanchè did make it up or not.

So much for the lady. A brief note about men.

Carlo Giovanardi is the Deputy Minister from PDL, the Right-Wing Party actually ruling Italy. By looking at his website, I discover that, with reference to the issue of the crucifixes, he deems the ECHR’s ruling “worth a laugh”. In fact, “in all public offices there is a picture of the President of the Italian Republic”, and no one sees in that a violation of any right.

To be honest, I think I would have felt violated if, when I was at school, I had had to look at this picture everyday:


Oh, and by the way, this is Giovanardi:


His picture would have probably done even more damage.

Anyway, this is not the point. This morning Giovanardi was on Radio 24. He too felt he had to show his political virtue and make his view clear to the public. Hence, he gave his verdict about the story of Stefano Cucchi, who died after being arrested, while still in police custody, a few weeks ago. Giovanardi pointed out that Cucchi died because of anorexia. He (Cucchi) was a drug dealer, and a drug addict: also, he weighed only 47 kg. That’s why he died.

One thing should be said, following from Giovanardi’s comment. If you have any friend with anorexia, please don’t abandon them. Otherwise, they might end up like Stefano, killed by anorexia.

We should look at these as two examples of cases in which politicians do indeed stand up and make their voice heard. Enough with saying that there is no real freedom of speech in Italy. Both Santanche’ and Giovanardi’s cases show that, when the stakes are high, no italian politician will accept to shut up.


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