Rome: Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni has sparked a controversy by addressing what she sees as a compatibility issue between Islam and Europe. Speaking at her right-wing party’s event, the firebrand Italian leader touched upon the issue of Saudi-backed Islamic cultural centers in Italy.
“I believe there is a problem of compatibility between Islamic culture or a certain interpretation of Islamic culture and the rights and values of our civilization,” she said, according to videos making rounds on the Internet. “It does not escape my mind that most of the Islamic cultural centers in Italy are financed by Saudi Arabia.”
Meloni also spoke on the issue of “lapidation for adultery” and “the death penalty for apostasy and homosexuality.” “I believe that these should be raised, which does not mean generalizing on Islam. It means raising the problem that there is a process of Islamisation in Europe that is very distant from the values of our civilization,” she said.
Meloni’s remarks have drawn criticism from some quarters, who accused her of stirring up Islamophobia and undermining the diversity of Italian society. Some also pointed out that Meloni herself has been a vocal supporter of Israel, a country that has been accused of violating the rights of Palestinians.
Meloni’s meeting with Sunak and Rama on migration
These sharp comments come as the leaders of Italy and the UK agreed on Saturday to tackle irregular migration to Europe, pledging to intensify cooperation in the fight against human trafficking. Meloni and Rishi Sunak, the UK Chancellor of the Exchequer, who held talks in Rome, were also joined by Albanian counterpart Edi Rama, who is seen as a key ally in the efforts to manage migrant arrivals from North Africa to European shores.
Meloni’s office said in a statement after the meeting that the talks with Sunak “focused primarily on the joint work in the field of migration within the framework of the Memorandum of Understanding signed in London” in April. The two leaders reportedly agreed to co-fund a first Italian-British project of assisted voluntary repatriations to countries of origin drawn up by the International Organization for Migration for migrants stranded in Tunisia.
Meloni, Sunak, and Rama agreed on the need to manage irregular migration “in an increasingly structured manner, further intensifying cooperation between the three countries to fight human trafficking,” the statement said. The talks also touched on other issues, including Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine and “the crisis in the Middle East,” it added. In recent months, Sunak has developed a strong partnership with Meloni and has sought to win support from other European leaders to help crack down on migration, with both Albania and Italy seen as crucial partners.