By Susan Brinkmann, OCDS
Libyan leader Moamer Gaddafi has turned a cordial visit to Rome into an international incident by calling for Europe to convert to Islam, offering to find Libyan husbands for Italian women, and trying to extort $1 billion a year from the Italian government for his help in preventing Italy from “turning black” due to increased African immigration.
The Telegraph is reporting that Gaddafi, in Rome to celebrate the second anniversary of a friendship treaty with its former coloniser, Italy, was lecturing a group of 500 women on Monday when he said that “Islam should become the religion of all of Europe.”
Participants at the event, who were hired by an agency at the request of the Libyan leader and paid 70 or 80 euros ($90 – $100) to attend the lecture, said Gaddafi also handed out copies of the Koran.
The following day, another 200 hired women were bused in for another lecture at the Libyan cultural center. Told to dress conservatively for the lecture and informed that no one would be paid who gave their names to the press afterward, one participant said Gaddafi told his audience that “women are more respected in Libya than in the West” and offered assistance in finding Libyan husbands.
“Islam is the last religion and if we are to have a single faith then it has to be in Mohammed,” he said, according to the participant.
Italian officials were embarrassed and infuriated by Gaddafi’s behavior.
“If I went to Tripoli to demand that Libyans convert to Christianity, what are the odds that I would return in one piece?” asked Rocco Buttiglione, the president of the UDC, a conservative Catholic political party.
Rosy Bindi, an MP from the main opposition party, also expressed outrage at the spectacle of hundreds of Italian women being bused in at Gaddafi’s request, calling it a “humiliating violation” of their dignity.
But this was not the last of the controversy Gaddafi would spark in his three-day visit. After a 30 minute meeting with Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi to discuss the opening of Libya to Italian investment, Gaddafi spoke at a closing ceremony where he suggested that it was in Europe’s best interest to pay Libya “at least five billion euros a year” to put a halt to illegal migration from its shores.
“Tomorrow Europe might no longer be European and even black as there are millions who want to come in,” he said. “We don’t know if Europe will remain an advanced and united continent or if it will be destroyed, as happened with the barbarian invasions.”
Gaddafi is referring to the thousands of African refugees and economic migrants who pour into Italy from the North African coast.
Italian leaders reacted with outrage, condemning Gaddafi’s attempted extortion as “unacceptable blackmail” and an attempt to hold Europe for ransom.
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