VENICE – In a highly controversial statement, the mayor of Venice Luigi Brugnaro warned that anyone shouting ‘Allahu Akbar’ would be shot down in his city.
“If anyone runs into St Mark’s Square shouting ‘Allahu akhbar,’ we will take him down,” Brugnaro was quoted as saying during the conference in Rimini on Tuesday.
The mayor further stated that the process of ‘shooting down’ would be swift now.
“A year ago I said within four paces, now within three. I will say it in Venetian: ‘Ghe Sparemo’ (We will shoot him).”
The official who faced flak last year for banning 49 books on homosexuality, appreciated the security situation in Venice while comparing it with that of Barcelona.
“In contrast with Barcelona, where they had not set up protection, we keep our guard up,” he said.
Brugnaro reminded the audience of a foiled attack in March by a Kosovan jihadist cell to blow up the city’s Rialto Bridge.
“In Venice, we arrested four terrorists who wanted to blow up the Rialto Bridge, saying they wanted to go to Allah. But we’ll send them straight to Allah before they can do any damage.”
A day after his comments, that stirred up a debate, the mayor admitted that he has never been politically correct.
“I am incorrect. I would shoot, we would shoot,” he reiterated hinting at the xenophobic approach towards terrorism.
Brugnaro’s comments were perceived in bad taste, and, in response, the mayor of Florence, Dario Nardella,ran up to Brugnaro, shouting “Allahu Akbar!” and laughing.
Though Nardella apologized for his gesture through a Facebook post saying: “I apologise for some comments in an online video. It was not my intention to offend anyone, not least the Muslim community, nor to joke about their religion or neither to reference the tragic events of our times.
“In fact, during that video, I distance myself from the statement (made) by my colleague Brugnaro about Muslims during his speech at the Rimini meeting.”
The Arabic phrase “Allahu akbar” — “God is great” — appears in Muslim daily life frequently. The call to prayer which takes place five times a day, contains multiple repetitions of the phrase.
Italy and Muslims
Italy, a pivotal country of Europe has fourth-largest Muslim population in the continent.
According to a 2016 Pew Research survey, it is home to 2.2 million Muslims, around 4% of the total population.