A newly arrived Moroccan immigrant in the Italian village of Valaperta di Casatenovo, near Lecco, could not stand the statue of the Virgin Mary in a niche opposite the house which had been assigned to him. The immigrant’s Muslim faith forbids the depiction of humans. Every morning the poor man was confronted with the statue of the Madonna – an intolerable affront to his deeply-felt religious convictions. Consequently, yesterday morning the immigrant filled up the niche with concrete. Two elderly ladies were able to save the statue of the Holy Virgin, but two statues of little angels surrounding the Madonna were walled in by the zealous Moroccan.
The Madonna of Valaperta di Casatenovo had been in the niche since the 1850s. The statue was a popular place where the villagers came to pray. One wonders why the Italians do not do this sensitive immigrant a favour and send him back to Morocco or to a place where he will not be offended by statues of the Virgin Mary. Saudi Arabia, for instance.
Badia Miri, a municipal civil servant and a Socialist trade union representative in Antwerp, Flanders, is angry because she is not allowed to wear a headscarf when working behind a desk serving citizens. The city council, which adheres to principles of “religious neutrality,” forbids civil servants who come into direct contact with the public to wear religious symbols, such as headscarves for Muslims or crosses for Christians.
Ms Miri, who is a Moroccan immigrant, demands that the city authorities assure her that Christmas trees will also be banned from municipal offices and that employees no longer get (free) chocolate eggs at Easter. “If the city council is really concerned about neutrality, then Christmas trees and Easter eggs should be banned as well,” she says.
One wonders why Ms Miri immigrated to Flanders and not to countries where she would not be disturbed by Christmas trees and chocolate Easter eggs. Saudi Arabia, for instance.
The trade unions of the Dutch police are demanding that the country’s various police departments not only allow staff to celebrate Christian holidays, but also holidays of non-Christian religions, such as the Islamic Eid festival. “We are a multicultural department and integration is a very important topic. We have to be loyal to our non-indigenous colleagues,” Bert Verdijk of the Amsterdam Police Trade Union APV says. “We live in a pluriform society and have to respect other faiths,” Hans Burg of the The Hague Police Trade Union PVH says.
According to Verdijk the traditional holidays – Christmas, Easter, Whitsunday – date from a time when the Dutch population was predominantly Christian. “But this situation has changed fundamentally. I think the number of Catholics and Protestants has decreased enormously.”
Last Sunday, France’s far-right leader Jean-Marie Le Pen, while vacationing in Morocco, gave an interview to La Gazette du Maroc. According to Le Pen it is “absurd that those who deny Iran the right to develop nuclear energy have nuclear weapons themselves. This is unbelievable. This attitude of contempt for and dominance of other peoples is unacceptable.”
Le Pen warned that an “armed conflict with Iran will lead to the Third World War.” He said he “understands” Morocco and explained that he had opposed the independence of Algeria in 1962 and defended “l’Algérie française” because “I hoped that the young Algerian Muslims would be the spokesmen of the French flag in the Arab and Muslim world.” Commenting on the French President Nicolas Sarkozy, Le Pen said: “He is an Atlanticist, a Zionist and a Europeanist – all things which I am not.” During last Spring’s French presidential election campaign, which was won by Sarkozy, Le Pen began to court France’s Muslim immigrants.