July 19, 2024
The imam of Bologna’s antisemite statements became an issue for the Italian government, but no action has been taken yet. Why?
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The imam of Bologna’s antisemite statements became an issue for the Italian government, but no action has been taken yet. Why?

By Giovanni Giacalone

The case involving Zulfiqar Khan, the Pakistani Islamist preacher who, for months, has been using the pulpit of his Bologna-based Islamic center to spread hateful language against the Jews, the Israelites (a term sometimes used by extremists to avoid antisemitic accusations), the United States, Israel, and King Abdullah of Jordan, as well as to promote pro-Hamas and pro-Iran ideas, has reached the top levels of the Italian political arena, and even the government, with articles on many of the mainstream newspapers and news sites.

The Deputy Prime Minister, Matteo Salvini, suggested the expulsion procedure for Khan, while two MPs of Giorgia Meloni’s party (Fratelli d’Italia) Marco Lisei and Sara Kelany, presented a parliamentary inquiry to the Minister of Interior, Matteo Piantedosi who was supposed to reply this week, but the response was delayed, possibly to the upcoming week.

The current silence and lack of action by the Minister of Interior is generating bewilderment and discontent, also because the reason behind it is unclear.

It is also worth noting that Khan responded aggressively by publicly attacking, from the pulpit of his mosque, Deputy PM Salvini, the Undersecretary of State at the Presidency of the Council of Ministers Alessandro Morelli, the Euro MP Isabella Tovaglieri, and journalist Federica Orlandi from Bologna’s “Resto del Carlino” newspaper.

The Honorary Consul of Israel for Lombardy, Emilia-Romagna and Tuscany, Marco Carrai, announced that he will file a lawsuit against Khan for his hateful statements.

Khan claims that, since he lives in Italy and not in Israel, he has the right to say whatever he wants because the Italian Constitution allows him; he will therefore continue to “speak the truth”.

This is a particularly disturbing “truth”, considering the statements that Khan made:

For instance, in May 2021, during a street speech in Bologna’s main square, “Piazza Maggiore”, while citing the Gospel of John, Khan stated that “…Jesus Christ, instead of going to Judea, he went to Galilee, because the Jews wanted to kill him. These Jews, I’m not saying all of them, but part of the Jews, they are cruel, they are cruel, they use intelligence to harm others”.

In November 2023, during the Italian mainstream TV show “Dritto e Rovescio”, Khan stated: “The Israelites are terrorists and deceivers according to the Bible“, adding that “deception with the aim of self-interest is part of the Jewish faith“.

Khan also cited the story of the beheading of John Baptist by King Herod to back his theory on how mean the Jews are. Andrea Delmastro Delle Vedove, Undersecretary of State at the Ministry of Justice in Giorgia Meloni’s government, strongly criticized Khan’s statements, claiming they have nothing to do with religion and called them “ideological trash”.

On April 26th, during one of his sermons, Khan said that: “the day America was born, unbelief was also born, the idea of murder, of genocide was also born, the father of falsehood called Semitism was born… America was born in 1700, in 1700 this word, Semitism, was also born. In 1779 that word was born, it was spread in 1781.” He then calls Semitism “a lie that was born with the fake democratic government that the world knows as America”. (04:00).

During another sermon held on May 24th, Khan stated:

They constructed a word, Semitism. Semitism does not exist. No book talks about Semitism, anti-Semitism. This word was widespread after 1781…Then after 1870 they constructed the word anti-Semitism which came out of Germany…” (21:33).

Semitism, even if we believe that Semitism exists, these Zionists are not Semites…This is why they canceled that they wanted to bring a law, a regulation, which must make DNA of all those who live on the land of Israel. When they realized that DNA won’t turn out the way they wanted.” (22:10).

On April 19th , 2024, once again from the pulpit of his mosque, Khan accused Netanyahu of being a “murderous, extremist rabbi.”

While talking about “the real face of the Zionists, Satanist powers” he claimed: “A rabbi, sitting laughing, because he knows that those who listen, who are interested, are sleeping. But yes, most of the Islamic countries are sleeping”. (09:27).

Khan seems to have an issue with rabbis, for some reason.

On May 26th , 2024, during another sermon, Khan made the following statements concerning Hamas:

This little warrior, a group of people called Hamas. They made it clear to the world that these are cowards (Israel, Zionists), they can’t do anything against men, they can only go against children, against women, against civilians.” (12.58)

We have seen, so many brothers are afraid to say that Hamas is a sincere group, mujahideen, because they had bombed all the Muslims in Europe that I must necessarily say that Hamas is a terrorist organization. They tried with me even from 7/10 onwards, we always had this position that Hamas is not a terrorist organization. They are defending their territory.” (32:47)

We thank Allah sws through these Hamas mujahideen warriors who have discovered this reality, this truth, that these (Israelis, Americans) are terrorists, they are murderers…” (53:54)

This is indeed not the first time that Khan expressed such viewpoints. For instance, on April 19th he had already stated that “Hamas, Hezbollah, Syria, Iran and Yemen, do not want to kill, do not want to harm civilians” and subsequently added: “That punishment which we are waiting for it to come from Allah, with the hands of Hamas and Hezbollah…”.

Without a doubt, Khan turned the pulpit of his mosque into a platform for sermons that have very little to do with religion and that, in the last two weeks, have turned into direct attacks for personal matters against government officials, MPs, and journalists.

However, the whole case reached a level where it is possible to say that Khan is not even the primary issue anymore, but rather the way that the case has been and is being handled (or should we say “it hasn’t been handled?”). There are in fact a series of points that must be taken into account.

The first one is political: we are seeing the Deputy Italian Prime Minister and MPs asking their own Minister of Interior why this situation is ongoing and to possibly take action. Back in November, Andrea Delmastro Delle Vedove, Undersecretary of State at the Ministry of Justice in Giorgia Meloni’s government, had strongly criticized Khan for his antisemitic statements. It is now July, Khan is still free to preach and it is unclear why no measures were taken.

Could this be due to a lack of communication between the political establishment and those law enforcers who are in charge of monitoring the situation related to Islamist extremism in Bologna?

The second point is technical: the Italian Minister of Interior has the possibility of expelling (deporting) any individual considered a threat to national security with a simple administrative measure. For instance, in April 2024, Algerian citizen Amor Branes (56), a resident of Udine, was expelled from Italy for posting pro-Hamas and pro-Palestinian Jihad content on social networks.

Khan has been using his Islamic center as a platform for sermons that have very little to do with religion, and a lot with Islamist and hateful propaganda. Hamas, which Khan glorified on several occasions, is blacklisted as a terrorist organization in the EU. He even posted images of Hamas terrorists on his personal Facebook account.

His weekly sermons are regularly posted on the Facebook page of the Islamic center and they are of public domain.

It is worth noting that, as recently said by Khan himself, several of his followers asked him to calm down, but he refused. This could imply that his own attendees had enough of his narrative.

Why has this situation been ongoing for so long? Were those who had the task of monitoring extremists in Bologna aware of the situation? Was the Minister of Interior informed? If yes, why all this delay in intervention?

The third point has to do with timing: the first antisemitic public statement made by Khan dates back to May 2021. In April 2022, Khan delivered a sermon against homosexuals (“Homosexuality and its damage”). Khan’s public narrative, which was already known, became more frequent and aggressive after October 7th and was exposed on several occasions by the mainstream media. However, the issue did not reach high political levels until mid-June. Why didn’t the Italian authorities intervene? Why is Khan still preaching?

The current Italian government took office in October 2022, while Khan’s oratory activity is prior. Therefore, this seems more of a technical issue, rather than a political one.

The fourth point relates to Khan’s reaction: logic and common sense would dictate that a person exposed to the authorities and the media for sharing problematic extremist material would keep a low profile. On the contrary, Khan publicly challenged and attacked Italian government officials and MPs, claiming that he is safe in Italy, that he can say whatever he wants and he even accused them of not knowing the Italian Constitution. Why does he feel so confident? Up to the point of using the pulpit of his mosque to attack government officials and MPs?  It is worth recalling that, in November 2023, Khan stated: “…In Italy, thanks to Allah, we are safe, and we have the right to speak.” Who knows what he meant? Is it really “thank to Allah”?

In conclusion, the Italian political establishment currently in power made a very clear request to the Minister of Interior, Matteo Piantedosi, and it makes sense; because the government should have full interest in intervening, not just for a matter of security, but also of image. The recent scandal involving some members of the youth of Fratelli d’Italia party exchanging antisemite and racist messages, as uncovered by a Fanpage investigation, shows that a lot more needs to be done to fight antisemitism; therefore, it is unacceptable that the pulpit of Islamic centers become platforms for such a narrative. This is a very dangerous precedent that could open the door to similar cases, if the authorities do not deal with it accordingly. More sermons coming out of that mosque, with that type of narrative, will only generate additional problems and controversies. Now the “ball” is up to the Minister of Interior.




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