Italy PM Giorgia Meloni stirs up controversy with remarks that Islam and Europe have a “compatibility problem.”
An undated video of the Italian Prime Minister, Giorgia Meloni, has surfaced on social media. She was heard saying that there is a “compatibility problem” between Islamic culture and the values and rights of European civilization. The video surfaced a day after a Saturday event was organized in Rome by her right-wing, ultra-conservative Brothers of Italy party. UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak also attended the event.
During the event, Meloni highlighted concerns that Saudi Arabia is funding Islamic cultural centers in Italy and criticized Sharia law, which deems apostasy and homosexuality as crimes punishable by death. She urged that the government be authoritarian on migration, warning that Italy could become Europe’s refugee camp. Her comments were met with fierce criticism from the political left, and she was accused of promoting prejudice and anti-Islamic sentiment.
The PM’s office later clarified that she did not say that Islam and European values were incompatible but rather that Europe should be strict on immigration to avoid a humanitarian crisis similar to the one experienced in Syria. However, several politicians across the political spectrum criticized her statement, and some even demanded that the PM apologize.
In October, Meloni was elected Italy’s first female PM from a far-right party. Many Western skeptics had low expectations of her, but so far, she has quelled foreign concerns about possible extremism and fallen in line with mainstream positions at home and abroad. She has forged good relations with allies and supported Ukraine in its war against Russia.
She has also primarily avoided domestic political chaos, which has dogged many of her predecessors. However, some worry that her right-wing agenda could turn the country into a pariah state. She has promised to rewrite the constitution and reduce the central bank’s power and is aiming to enact reforms allowing her to run a deficit above 3% for the next decade.
On the home front, her most controversial move has been to restrict the operations of humanitarian rescue ships that take migrants from North Africa to Europe. Conservatives have hailed the move as a necessary measure to prevent Italy from becoming an “African camp,” while left-wingers have decried it as discrimination against refugees. Despite these criticisms, Meloni has maintained strong support from the Brothers of Italy’s voters, with many feeling that only a hard-liner like her can pull the country out of its economic crisis. Her rhetoric may be out of step with most of the population, but it has resonated with many who feel center-left parties are ignoring their rights. If the trend continues, it could set a dangerous precedent in Europe.