Tag Archives: Italy

Islamophobia in Eurabia?

Yesterday, Swiss citizens overwhelmingly approved a ban on new minaret construction in Switzerland, and in the process, infuriated all the right parties—the BBC, the Muslim Brotherhood, and elites in the United States. The Swiss should feel shame, and Europe should be worried, according to the Guardian, yet this vote represents a popular trend—Muslim immigrants must meld into society, not attempt to alter it.

In taking a quick peek at the numbers, fifty-seven percent approved the ban, on a relatively high turnout of fifty-three percent. And while only five percent of the Swiss population are Muslim immigrants, and only four minarets hover in towns throughout Switzerland, a clear majority were galvanized into opposing any dramatic changes to the cultural landscape.

France is considering a ban on niqabs and any other face-concealing veils, and one mayor in Italy has erected a controversial sign along with a new policy—no burqas and niqabs in Varallo, Italy. The warning is also translated in Arabic.

“Throughout the city, we are applying the prohibition of wearing these clothes that, in the case of the burqa, prevent the recognition of the person. The signs signify the will “of the Administration to stop this practice of Muslim women that goes against our traditions and standards on safety.”

Some elites, progressives and academics might find this cultural preservation trend troubling for many reasons: it upsets their utopian view of European multiculturalism; it challenges their enlightened Europe as America’s role model argument; it shatters political correctness into pieces. Make no mistake—banning burqas and minarets isn’t politically correct, nor is it expedient.

Perhaps conservatives were wrong. Maybe Americans could learn a thing or two from Europeans. Culture is important, and it merits the fight.

“Going against our traditions…”

Imagine if we used that response to the current assault on Christmas or the English language taking place in America. It’s racist to take the position that Americans or legal residents should have a rudimentary command of the language, and it is offensive to say “Merry Christmas.” By contrast, Italians are picky about their culture, which is why schools were informed of possible penalties if they dared to remove any of the crucifixes the European Human Rights Court found so offensive.

Over time and under constant influence by elites in D.C and on TV, Americans have been influenced into behaving like robots, unable to voice concerns or fight for their culture out of fear for looking like rubes. They can’t voice concerns without incessantly couching their words or avoiding the subject matter altogether. But as they’ve morphed under the pc cloud, they have also exhausted their patience with the experiment.

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European Court Rules on Crucifix in Classrooms

italian_schoolSomewhere, Michael Newdow, the California atheist obsessed with striking God from everywhere but the Bible, is smiling…

As yesterday, the European Court of Human Rights headlined Italian news when they ruled on a case brought by Soile Lautso Albertin, an Italian citizen originally from Finland, who wanted crucifixes removed from her sons’ classrooms. The court decided that the presence of crucifixes in the classrooms is a “violation of the right of parents to educate their children according to their wishes,” and an assault on the “freedom of religion for the students.”

The Italian government was also ordered to pay, five thousand euros, for their part in psychologically damaging the boys who were forced to learn in the midst of a crucifix.

Unscientific results from a web poll posed by Corriere della Sera, show slightly more than half, 52.3%, disagreeing with the court’s decision, with a tad more than nine thousand respondents.

Politicians reacted predictably. Adel Smith, President of the Union of Muslims in Italy who once referred to Jesus Christ as a “miniature cadaver,” questioned how crucifix defenders could have been surprised; “in a state which defines itself as secular, cannot oppress other faiths by showing a particular religious symbol.” And the national secretary of the Union of Atheists and Agnostics joined an Italian communist leader proclaiming victory.

Many mainstream politicians, however, disagreed with the decision. “I think that the ancient tradition of the crucifix could not be offensive to anyone,” argued Pierluigi Bersani, leader of the neo-PD. For Minister Mariastella Gelmini (PDL) “the presence of the crucifix in the classroom does not mean adherence to Catholicism, but is a symbol of our tradition.”

The Vatican is obviously disappointed. From the Corriere della Sera:

Father Federico Lombardi, in a brief speech to Vatican Radio and the Tg1, told of “surprise and regret” with which – in the Papal city – has greeted the decision of the court Council of Europe. “The crucifix – he explained – was always a sign of God’s offer of love and union and shelter for all humanity. It is sad that it has been regarded as a sign of division, exclusion or restriction of freedom.

Regardless of whether one agrees with the ruling or not, the refreshing candor shown by vocal Italian politicians who are unthreatened by their faith and culture, should serve as a lesson to milquetoast American pols, who are often all too eager to undercut their own beliefs to exude tolerance.

As Americans, we always hear how secular and opposed to organized religion Europeans are, yet there are still many schools in Europe where Christmas is celebrated and crosses hang undisturbed.  That might change, and yesterday’s ruling might signal a push for heightened secularism and greater division between governments and religion, but as of today, Christians have more freedom to celebrate their faith.

“The Absentee Ballot”

 

hammer_sic3aFor generations, Italy has inspired transplanted writers. From personal narratives to cookbooks, from history books to blockbuster fiction, its enchanting culture and historical legacy has helped to churn out manuscript after manuscript. Although I was fascinated by its history, transfixed by its culture and wowed by it cuisine, my Italian experience, as I write about in The Absentee Ballot, falls into an entirely separate category of “back from Italy” books: surviving liberalism and living to tell about it.

Unlike those who vowed to leave the U.S. if George Bush was elected, I had simply decided to follow my Italian husband who was returning home after spending several years in the U.S. My husband had motivated my move, and in chapter one, I explain what motivated my book.

Historically, there have always been hypercritical Europeans, but the shameless assault that I was seeing emanate from American leftists prompted me to give a broader perspective on a Europe that I found strikingly different from the one championed in their blogs, e-mails and newscasts. European attacks on U.S foreign policy and culture weren’t new, but the rhetoric that was spewing forth from American liberal circles had become unbearable.

More and more Americans jumped on the bandwagon, and the America bashing intensified. It became hip to be an Amerihater.  With the casualties rising in Iraq and no WMD to be found, they became bolder in their criticism.

Not only were these Americans blinded to the notion that they were living in the greatest country on earth, most of them hadn’t a clue about the practical effects of the policies which they advocated. George Clooney might have filmed a commercial for the former communist running for Prime Minister of Italy, but his Italian experience is quite atypical. His American paycheck, his reluctance to learn the language and his lakefront villa opulence keep him from grasping the frustrations of a typical hard-working Italian, so how is he qualified to comment, let alone recommend a candidate.  I wonder if he has ever attempted to reach the center of Milan on a train, bus or subway when strikers have shut them down. Because I used the train and the subway, I wasn’t as lucky. Then again, I was, because I was able to witness socialism at work.

Looking down, I watched impassioned hippies march through the otherwise car-packed streets, while flags and banners waved as thousands of people chanted and played music. The sea of red had the odd Soviet flag sprinkled here and there. Some protestors screamed into megaphones, while others sang the communist worker’s hymn. Not being a communist myself, I didn’t recognize what the song was until I watched the news later that night.

CGIL (ex-communist union) had turned out thousands of people, including children, to manifest in over one hundred towns across Italy.  The strikes varied in complexion from city to city, but the scioperanti, as they are called in Italy, used this occasion to protest a panoply of issues ranging from the war in Afghanistan to environmental policies. In Bologna, they took over a Benetton shop.  Elsewhere, anti-Big Mackers organized a three day event against McDonalds.

Every drumbeat and bell struck in squares across Italy signaled new grievances. Ding: Global warming. Dong: Unfair layoffs. Bing: No War. Bong: More vacations. However serious or ridiculous the grievance, the habitual strikers used any and every excuse to march and complain. I guess Machiavelli was right: the power wears out those who don’t have it. Berlusconi and the right had worn them out just as Bush had exasperated leftist Americans.

Strikes were inconvenient and periodic monkey wrenches, but there were other more critical errors in the liberal utopia, namely multiculturalism which is fundamentally altering Europe’s cultural landscape. And because Italian isn’t a widely spoken language, their struggle with immigration doesn’t get the attention it deserves. Italians have struggled with illegal immigration and waves of refugees from Africa, because of their preference for multiculturalism over assimilation. The crisis has been compounded by the severe religious divide between the Catholic majority and those Muslims calling Italy their new home.

The battle between the leftists and those vying to preserve Italy’s storied culture is growing increasingly bitter.

It wasn’t just embarrassment or adding members to their roles that interested the communists. They also used the religion of the immigrants to beat back the dominant faith which they despised. Near Siena, well-known for the palio, a centuries-old horse race in the town square, religious tensions were stoked by a communist mayor, who, without seeking the approval of those living in Colle Val d’Elsa—a village just outside of Siena, brilliantly decided to provide public funds to build a mosque on a public park. The locals were outraged, not because of racism or bigotry toward Muslims in the town, but because they weren’t asked their opinion. There was no referendum.

Construction has begun and minarets will soon tower above the small cobblestone streets and medieval frescoes. Score one for those Marxists who would love nothing more than to snuff out the “opium of the people.”

At times, politicians on the far right utilized rather unorthodox strategies to affect the growing Islamic influence in Italian society.

Roberto Calderoli, a La Lega politician, planned a “pig day” to protest another planned mosque in Bologna.  “I place myself and my pig at the disposal of those who are against this mosque,” he said, offering to tour the construction site with his pig, after which the ground would be “considered infected and no longer suitable” for building.  Although the pig day proposal shocked many Italians, only 28% of the population supports any new mosque construction.

Immigration is a main concern of both Americans and Europeans; so is racism.  

It didn’t take long for me to recognize a peculiar connection between swastikas, old soviet flags and banana peelings. During European soccer matches, all were liable to end up littering soccer stadiums in appalling displays of racism.

At Milan’s San Siro soccer stadium, Zoro, a player for Messina, heard taunting so severe that he threatened to leave the field.  Other players convinced him to stay and play, but the next time he traveled to Milan for a game, he was greeted with a sign that read, “Peanuts and bananas are the price of your fame.”

I wonder how the elites, the self-loathers and the race-baiters would get along in Europe.  From human rights to UN resolutions, these folks are constantly in search of European approval. But how would they fair living inside their socialist utopia, and would they be surprised at the life they would find?  Would Jesse Jackson continue cashing in on corporate shakedowns and exploiting every race related issue to get mug time on television?  In Europe, he would have plenty of opportunities.

If Jesse and Al could help ease European racial tensions, then maybe Al Gore would be happier in Europe under its proactive environmental policy.  But, could Gore really last? He would have to alter his rather liberal use of electricity—reported to be twenty times that of the average American household.  Electricity in Europe, like fuel, is much more expensive

It would be costlier to operate his SUVs and private planes and then there are also the inconvenient “time outs” from driving in the city. When pollution levels reach a certain level inside the municipalities, the government bans city traffic and declares a pollution free zone.

If Gore lived inside an Italian metropoli, he’d have several options, starting with the many systems of mass transit. If the busses, trains and subways are not available because of strikes, there are always other viable alternatives, such as riding a bicycle or a horse.  Somehow I don’t see Al Gore riding the subway or a horse.

If it wasn’t striking workers grinding the transportation system to a halt, it was the ‘save the earth’ crowd’s efforts to ease smog in the cities and municipalities. But as inconvenient as those interruptions were, Italy’s outrageously high taxes had an even greater impact on the lifestyles of Italians, and me. Italians are known for their creativity, and their tax-evading maneuvers required every ounce of it.

I learned the routine rather quickly. If I requested a receipt for any labor completed, the bill was usually higher. Cash was always welcome and utilized more often than I was used to in the United States. My friends were refreshingly honest about their Swiss bank accounts, and would occasionally recount their tax escapades. One of my favorites was a friend who had made trips to Switzerland for years.

One afternoon when it came time for him to cross into Switzerland, the border patrol directed him to pull to the side of the road. They needed to search the car, and they did.  They looked through his briefcase, his jacket, the car and in the trunk, but found nothing and let him pass through. The only place they hadn’t checked was underneath his hat, which was where the smuggled cash was hidden. His behavior might seem extreme and deceitful, but the strain and limitations of the tax system had forced him to find another way.

High taxes, multiculturalism, environmental treaties and overbearing unions were just a few of the many socialist surprises that I found had been misrepresented by socialist sympathizers in the American mainstream media. However, their most egregious propaganda—the one that prompted my book—is their suggestion that Europeans hate America.

Getting along was easy. Europeans hadn’t held it against me that I was American, just as I hadn’t held it against them that they were not.

My neighbors didn’t seem to mind having a Yankee in their backyard. As a gated country club community, Monticello wasn’t necessarily a typical Italian neighborhood, but it was almost bizarre to see how the American flag functioned as a brand. I was amazed to see kids wearing sweaters of old glory or shirts with “I love the U.S.A” scribbled across them.  None of them had “I love Germany,” or “I love China” t-shirts. It was America they were wearing.

Surely, part of this curious admiration was due to the great marketing of the flag by designers in the U.S. However, if Italians felt loathing or even indifference toward the U.S, they would avoid dressing themselves in red, white and blue.

The most recent U.S. Presidential election, provided voters a clear choice, perhaps the most unambiguous in decades. The background of candidate Obama enticed voters with a chance to make history, while his eloquence before the teleprompter invoked comparisons with Reagan. Since his presidency has begun, however, it has been his frightening policy proposals like healthcare that have functioned as a collective double espresso to the voters.

The triple espresso is The Absentee Ballot.

Italian Town Offers 2k to Immigrants

From Italy’s Corriere della Sera:

The city council of Spresiano, under influence of La Lega Nord (the Northern League) proposed a bonus of two thousand dollars to legal immigrants who move away. Budget strapped towns are grappling with how to cope with the economic crisis; having to support out-of-work foreign workers, in addition to their own, has turned sentiment against immigrants, legal or otherwise.

Explained Assessor Manola Spolverato, “We are willing to give two thousand euros per family provided they go live elsewhere. It costs us less than guaranteeing support to families in difficulty. It is not possible that the municipality is forced to maintain at its own expense, immigrants who, despite having lost their jobs, continue to have a valid residence permit.” His proposal comes just after another initiative, which would have reserved support for families where both spouses speak Italian.

Wall St Invasion?

The distress over the global financial meltdown encompasses more than just frightening 401k statements and doomsday newscasts. We’ve now another impetus for headaches and acid stomachs. This week, Libya’s Qaddafi became a major shareholder in Unicredit, Italy’s largest bank, which might have prompted the Italian Prime Minister Berlusconi’s warning. “I have news that oil producing countries with large funds are buying heavily into our markets.”

So beyond China helping the United States with its perpetually unbalanced budget, we’ve got Arabs trolling for bargains. Berlusconi elaborated: “Now there are great opportunities for those who have capital, and I think that certain sovereign funds, and ones you would oppose, are hostile.”

I take it that it isn’t just moderate Saudi Prince Al-Waleed bin Talal bargain hunting in the major indices. I use the term ‘moderate’ because apart from his support for CAIR and his comments after 9/11 which elicited a rejection of his $10 million check, he’s been a revolutionary among his fellow Bedouins. He has supported women’s rights and hired the first female pilot in Saudi Arabia.

As gas prices have ballooned and the economy has slowed, “drill baby drill,” has become an increasingly popular refrain repeated at McCain rallies. More than just cheap gas, it’s our sovereignty at stake.

According to Rand, U.S. oil shale reserves represent three times that of Saudi Arabia. Yet, we would rather buy the oil from the Saudis, making them wealthy enough to buy large chunks of our corporations.

Only in America

Multiculturalism Hits a Snag in Venice

Recently, an incident at the prestigious Venetian museum, Ca Rezzonico, caused a stir when one of their guards asked an Arab tourist to remove her niqab, a veil concealing all but her eyes. After she had purchased a ticket to the museum, she made her way to the second floor with her family and was advised to remove her veil. She refused, and a political firestorm ensued.

The museum director apologized. “It was a decision taken by the guard who has committed a serious error.” But was it really a mistake? According to their own guidelines for immigrants issued in 2007, it wasn’t. Instituted  under the previous center-left government, the law prevents niqabs and burqas because, “they prevent the identification of the person and are an obstacle to the interaction with others.”

Member of the anti-illegal immigrant Northern League, Sen. Castelli requested that the justice minister ensure the safety of the guard’s position at the museum. “He should be given an award, not punished,” cautioned the deputy mayor of nearby Treviso.

Whether the guard was justified in his action, at least the concerning parties are in an environment where they can speak openly and candidly without being labeled racists.

Clooney, Obama and Veltroni-The Communist Cupola

I just read an interview with George Clooney in Italy’s La Repubblica, a leading Italian newspaper, and about fell out of my chair. In it, he discusses his new movie and a commercial he filmed for an Italian politician, Veltroni, a former communist and foreword writer to the Italian version of Obama’s Audacity of Hope. When I read it, I was surprised, not because he filmed a commercial for a communist, but that he actually said something in Italian considering the fact that he still doesn’t speak it, despite calling Italy “casa mia,” or my home. I know. Amazing. He doesn’t speak the language, he spends less than half the year there, and yet he finds time to film a commercial advocating a candidate, a communist one at that. It’s funny, he advocates a “hands-off” approach when it comes to minding other countries’ affairs, yet he wastes no time violating his own rule.

I was relieved when I looked up the YouTube video of the commie ad. It simply showed his photo along with a quote that read in Italian, “I’m with Obama, I hope that after the many errors, my country will heal. And Italy, it’s my home, and Veltroni (the communist, sorry, reformed communist), he is a good friend.”

If only McCarthy were alive…He’d have a field day with Penn and his admiration for FARC backing Chavez. Oliver Stone, Spielberg, Danny Glover and all of the other thespians that I have neglected to mention who trip over themselves to praise Castro would merit special scrutiny as well.

Clooney? I’m not sure he’s as sinister as he is naïve. And I’m not sure what is more disturbing. Is it loony Clooney, or the fact that we might have the only U.S. Presidential nominee in history that has had a communist pen his introduction?

Clooney supports communist=Clooney is a communist.

Communist supports Obama=Obama is a communist.

Clooney supports Obama=Both are communists.

In my new book, The Absentee Ballot, I discuss how Hollywood affects Europeans’ opinions of the United States. It certainly doesn’t help enhance our image abroad when the most visible Americans are filming spots for communist politicians, while simultaneously indulging in a good dose of self-flagellation.