- Manuel Silvestri/Reuters
The mayor of Venice has said anybody who shouts “Allahu akbar” in the city’s main square will be shot.
Luigi Brugnaro, an independent politician who prides himself on not being “politically correct,” made the threat in the wake of the Barcelona terror attacks.
According to The Times newspaper, Brugnaro said: “If anyone runs into St Mark’s Square shouting ‘Allahu akhbar,’ we will take him down.”
However, his threat was not taken very seriously, and later made him the butt of a joke at the conference he was attending.
During the event in Rimini, Brugnaro boasted that Venice was safer than Barcelona, which last week witnessed a van attack that killed 13 people and injured at least 125.
“In contrast with Barcelona, where they had not set up protection, we keep our guard up,” he told a the event on Tuesday, at a panel discussing radicalism and terrorism.
In March, Italian police successfully foiled a terror attempt by a Kosovan jihadist cell to blow up the city’s Rialto Bridge.
Brugnaro reminded the conference of that success, saying: “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.”
Here’s a clip of the event (in Italian):
But Brugnaro may find this task difficult. 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, begins with four repetitions of the phrase.
Italy has the fourth-largest Muslim population in Europe, according to a 2016 Pew Research survey. It is home to 2.2 million Muslims, around 4% of the total population.
Other attendees did not appear to take Brugnaro seriously. Afterwards, Florence’s mayor Dario Nardella rushed up to Brugnaro and shouting “Allahu akbar,” prompting laughter from other delegates. He later apologised to people who thought the joke trivialised terrorism or mocked Islam.
Brugnaro has courted controversy for his incendiary remarks in the past.
Shortly after becoming mayor two years ago, he removed 49 books about same-sex relationships from Venetian schools, which prompted more than 250 Italian authors to demand that he take their books away as well.
A month after that, Brugnaro sought to ban gay pride parades from the city, labelling them the “height of kitsch,” the Guardian reported.