SOURCE: THE SYDNEY MORNING HERALD, ONE PICTURE FROM DAILY SABAH
Rome: A right-wing lawmaker in Italy was reprimanded Wednesday after he called a young Italian woman who converted to Islam while being held hostage in Somalia a “neo-terrorist.”
Silvia Romano, 24, stepped off an Italian government jet on Sunday wearing the green hijab typical of Somali Muslim women. She reportedly told prosecutors in Rome she converted freely during her 18-month kidnapping ordeal, which included being held captive by Somalia’s al-Shabab militants.
What should have been a joyful time for Romano and her family has been marred by displays of bigotry and intolerance in Italy, a majority Catholic country where racist incidents have grown amid anti-migrant sentiment.
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Police were called to the Romano family home in Milan after a glass bottle was thrown against the residence.
Negative comments on social media have focused on Romano’s decision to convert to Islam, as well as her decision to volunteer in the remote part of Kenya where she was abducted in 2018. The government has also been criticised for having apparently paid a ransom to her captors.
Alessandro Pagano, a lawmaker from the anti-migrant League Party, drew jeers and a reprimand from colleagues in the lower house of parliament after he mentioned Romano while complaining about the government’s refusal to reopen Catholic Churches during the coronavirus lockdown.
Pagano alleged there is a “strong anti-religious bent” in Italy’s current coalition government, adding “and yet when a neo-terrorist comes back …” He remark was an apparent reference to the decision by the Italian premier and foreign minister to greet Romano at Rome’s Ciampino airport upon her return.
The acting president of the Chamber of Deputies, Mara Carfagna, quickly admonished Pagano, saying: “Using the term ‘neo-terrorist’ is thoroughly improper, especially in this chamber.”
Democratic Party lawmaker Emanuele Fiano went further, blasting Pagano for accusing a victim of a violent extremist group of committing the crime of terrorism.
“She was a prisoner of a band of terrorists! She was a prisoner of a band of terrorists!” Fiano shouted.
Pagano defended himself, saying he quoted from a newspaper.
Giuliana Sgrena, an Italian journalist kidnapped in Iraq in 2005, said she also experienced a backlash after she was freed because an Italian agent was killed in a firefight during her rescue.
“Obviously all the polemics begin when it’s a women who is kidnapped,” she told Swiss radio RSI. “No one complains when ransom is paid for a man, or when a man goes to such places. But when it’s a woman, it’s that we went looking for it.”
The Vatican newspaper L’Osservatore Romano, denounced the “inhuman” attacks on Romano and demanded that her detractors think instead about how much suffering she endured.
“Silvia Romano’s freedom should have produced joy and nothing else,” the newspaper wrote Wednesday.
“Instead, it is incredible the sequence of reactions and filthy judgments that have rained down from every corner of the country that have dissected what happened to this child, starting from her original choice.”
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Categories: Europe, Europe and Australia, European Union, Islamophobia, Italy
An Italian aid worker, who was abducted in Kenya in November 2018, has been flown back to her home country.
Silvia Romano, 25, embraced her parents and sister, and was greeted by Italy’s prime minister and foreign minister after she landed in Rome.
She was freed from suspected Islamist group al-Shabab near Somalia’s capital Mogadishu on Saturday, reports say.
Italy’s secret service is said to have been assisted by Turkey and Somalia to secure her release.
No group has claimed responsibility for the abduction 18 months ago.
Hate speech and death threats toward Silvia Romano, an Italian aid worker rescued last week after she was kidnapped 18 months ago in East Africa, are mounting as the Italian media and politicians spearheaded a campaign because she converted to Islam during her captivity.
In the latest incident, Italia’s far-right League Party deputy Alessandro Pagano called Romano “the new terrorist” in a Lower House session Wednesday. While Deputy House Speaker Mara Carfagna, who is also a member of the League’s ally Forza Italia, said Pagano’s words were unacceptable, some members of other parties called on the racist deputy to apologize for his words.
Romano, 24, was greeted by Prime Minister Guiseppe Conte when she arrived in Italy on Sunday. However, once it was revealed that she converted to Islam on her own and was wearing a hooded garment that covered her hair, media outlets launched an immediate hate campaign against her.
A politician from the province of Treviso posted on Facebook that Romano should be hanged. The post was swiftly removed.
“Islamic and happy. Silvia the ungrateful,” said the front-page headline of right-wing daily Il Giornale on Monday.
After Italian media reported that Rome paid a ransom of some 1.5 million euros ($1.6 million) to secure Romano’s release, a claim unconfirmed by the government, Matteo Salvini, leader of the far-right opposition League party said, “Imagine the Islamic terrorists: They have brought home the money, committing a criminal act, and ‘won’ the cultural battle in the name of the Islamic veil and conversion.”
As the hate speech on social media against Romano continued to mount, magistrates in the northern city of Milan have opened a probe into the threats, and police have stepped up patrols around her home.
Gunmen seized Romano, who was working for an Italian charity called Africa Milele, from southeastern Kenya in November 2018.
She was found in Somalia, some 30 kilometers (19 miles) outside the capital of Mogadishu and was released Sunday thanks to efforts of the Turkish National Intelligence Agency (MİT).