In his speech at a conference on the integration of Muslim immigrant communities on Wednesday, Interior Minister Giuliano Amato nonchalantly declared that beating women is a "Sicilian-Pakistani tradition". The former Socialist premier, now serving in the centre-left government of Premier Romano Prodi, went on to add that the "customs and traditions" popular in Sicily up until the 1970s are not very far from "those imported by certain groups of Muslim immigrants".
Expectedly, Amato remarks immediately threw him
in a heap of trouble. Opposition MP and ex-minister Stefania Prestigiacomo,
from Sicily, responded: "Amato doesn't know what he's saying. Either
he immediately apologises to Sicilians
or I'll sue him for libel". Another Sicilian MP, Giuseppe Marinello of
Forza Italia, also demanded an apology, pointing out that "no one has the
right to define a lack of respect
towards women a Sicilian characteristic" and that "no such
Sicilian-Pakistani tradition exists.
The real news, however, is that, this time, Amato's "slip of tongue" got noticed even by some members of his own coalition: "Amato treated the issue of violence on women with surprising lightness" said MP Riccardo Villari of La Margherita who nonetheless added, in a justificatory tone, that "someone like him should know that complicated concepts can sound rough, approximate and even offensive when summed up and quoted".
He's right. In fact, one cannot help but wonder what happened to Dr. Subtle, the guy who always thought twice before opening his mouth. Where did the Professor go, the only one, among Prodi's ministers who seemed the right guy in the right place, a guarantee for the country's security?
Perhaps Forza Italia National Coordinator Sandro Bondi was right when he pointed out that "Amato, who prophetized that this country would go crazy, is not immune from the process himself". Or maybe the Interior Minister was simply infected by the superficial attitude that has become a feature of most of the majority's representatives.