Italy’s ‘theo-cons’ rally against ‘Islamist threat’
ROME: Senior politicians in Italy’s government launched a policy manifesto on Thursday vowing to protect Western civilisation from what they said were the twin threats of Islamic fundamentalism and a moral vacuum.
Marcello Pera, speaker of the Senate and a friend of Pope Benedict, said people in the West were ashamed to stand up for their values and often blamed themselves for being victims of terrorism. “The West has difficulty recognising itself,” Pera told a news conference to launch the manifesto. “As Pope Benedict said: ‘the West doesn’t love itself any more’,” he said.
The document, entitled “For the West, Force of Civilisation”, begins: “The West is in crisis. Attacked externally by fundamentalism and Islamic terrorism, it is not able to rise to the challenge. Undermined internally by a moral and spiritual crisis, it can’t seem to find the courage to react.”
Pera, a member of Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi’s Forza Italia party, wants centre-right politicians to sign up to the manifesto ahead of an April general election which polls say the centre left, led by Romano Prodi, is more likely to win.
Many politicians and some business and media figures have expressed support for the text, which calls for the spread of Western civilisation’s “universal and inalienable principles”.
Berlusconi himself has yet to sign the document, Pera said, adding however that the prime minister backed the project.
Pera’s manifesto was launched to a background of protests throughout the Muslim world against cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) published in European newspapers.
Many of the protests have turned violent and at least 11 people died in a riot outside an Italian consulate in Libya last week. Pera said the bloodshed could not be blamed on Europe.
“I don’t think this can be seen as a response to something which happened in Italy and the West,” he said. “In those places, fundamentalism was already getting ready and waiting for someone to put a match to the gunpowder.”
Violence by Islamist extremists in Britain and France had shown those countries had failed to integrate immigrants into society, Pera said, insisting Italy must make newcomers respect the Italian way of life.
Pera denied any suggestion that his rallying cry to the tendency Italy’s media has dubbed the “theo-cons” — available online at www.perloccidente.it — was in any way inflammatory. “There’s nothing that suggests a clash of religions or a clash of civilisations in this document,” he said. .
Berlusconi, who in September 2001 outraged Muslims by saying the West was a superior civilisation, gave an interview to Arab TV station Al-Jazeera on Wednesday where he dismissed talk of any clash of civilisations and condemned the Muhammad (PBUH) cartoons. reuters