Libyan Dictator Suggests Conversion to Islam while Demanding 5 Billion Euros in Annual Tribute from the European Community
Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi’s visit to Rome was to mark the second anniversary of his country’s renewed bilateral relationship with Italy, which had once occupied the North African nation. However, at an August 30 lecture in the Eternal City, he appeared to offer Libyan husbands to the hundreds of women assembled to hear him while also calling upon Europe to convert to Islam.
Approximately 500 young women were hired and paid by an agency to attend Gaddafi’s lecture. Mostly students who hire themselves out to advertising and publicity firms, the women were paid approximately $100 each, while women who gave their names to the press were not paid. The women were instructed to dress modestly for the Muslim ruler of Libya, even while they were not required to wear scarves or hijab. Another 200 women attended a second lecture held at the Libyan embassy.
Women attending Gaddafi’s lecture said that he claimed “women are more respected in Libya than in the West” and offered to serve as a matchmaker in finding them Muslim husbands in Libya. Qaddafi , who has several wives and numerous children, added “Islam is the last religion and if we are to have a single faith then it has to be in Mohammed,” according to a participant.
The Libyan’s words apparently caused some discomfiture to the government of Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi. The Italian leader’s political opponents offered stinging criticism of the visit. Former health minister Rosy Bindi said that Gaddafi’s lectures were “a new, humiliating violation of Italian women’s dignity,” while European MP Mario Borghezio of the Northern League party said “Gaddafi’s words show his dangerous Islamization project for Europe.” A Berlusconi spokesperson scoffed at the criticism and said that Gaddafi’s words were merely “a remark made during a private meeting.”
Berlusconi and Qaddafi met on August 29, confirming that Libya will open itself to Italian investment. Relations between their countries has long been rocky. Italy occupied the oil-rich North African nation from 1911 to 1943, when it was liberated by Allied forces. Following their meeting, the two leaders toured an exhibition tracing the history of the relationship, including the bloody colonial period. Qaddafi seized power in 1969 and has ruled ever since as the “Brotherly Leader and Guide of the Revolution.”
Stepping into one of the most contentious issues in Italy – immigration – Qaddafi suggested, with Berlusconi at his side, that the European Union should pay Libya “at least five billion euros a year” to halt illegal migration from his country. Efforts by the Italian navy to control the flow of immigrants arriving by sea has been met largely with failure. Qaddafi advised that the payoff by Europe would to stem “the advance of millions of migrants” from Africa. Berlusconi, however, said that improved relations with Libya has served to counter the flow of illegal African immigrants controlled by criminal organizations.
A friendship agreement signed by Italy and Libya has been fruitful: Italy is the third largest European investor in Libya. Italy will invest $5 billion and build a 1,050 mile highway in Libya as compensation for its bloody colonial rule. The two countries also reached an agreement that allows the Italian navy to intercept illegal migrants at sea and return them to Libya, bringing a sharp rebuke United Nations’ refugee agency and human rights groups.
Gaddafi travelled, as usual, with a Bedouin tent for his accommodation which was pitched in the gardens of the residence of the Libyan embassy in Rome. On his first such visit to Rome, he pitched his tent at the Villa Doria Pamphili park. As a sign of protest against this second visit, an opposition party planted a “tent of legality” in front of the Libyan embassy.