When one thinks of Italy, the first images that come to mind exude all that harbors a lust for life: food that would break even the strictest dieter's willpower; art that has captured the face of heaven; wine from grapes crushed by Bacchus himself; opera that would make a hardened criminal weep. It is the land of Venice's Grand Canal, Rome's Colosseum, the Duomo in Firenze; of beautiful cars and the best fashion houses in the world crafting garbs that would make even an average Joe look like he belonged on the Silver Screen.
And of course, what would it all be without the people who inhabit this almost-mythical place, who've a passion for all of the above and then some?
Well, you won't have to imagine, as it could become a reality.
What if, in a mere 20 years, all that makes Italy, well, Italy, were to recede into the ether, cloaked in the darkness of a black burqa? And what if, in a couple of centuries, it becomes just another outpost of the global caliphate? It isn't the makings of a horror-version of the famed movie Roman Holiday, but rather the grim state of affairs currently facing the birthplace of Da Vinci, Botticelli, Michelangelo and yes, Enzo Ferrari.
As Italy's population ages and its birthrates decline, a new report by Israel National News' Giulio Meotti reveals that the Muslim Brotherhood's presence is growing exponentially in the country, and that even Italy's minister of education, Francesco Profumo, is calling for Islam to be taught in public schools alongside traditional curriculum.
What's more, secretary general of the Italian Episcopal Conference, Bishop Mariano Crociata, reportedly declared that the Vatican is in favor of building new mosques in Italy. European Bishops, too, met with Muslims in Turin to proclaim the need for the “progressive enculturation of Islam in Europe," according to the report.
According to Meotti, Antonio Golini -- an author and leading demographer in Europe -- maintains that “Italians will be extinct within the next 200 years" and that Italy is the first country in the entire world to experience a phenomenon dubbed, "the crossing-over," where the number of people over the age of 60 surpasses the number of people under the age of 20. To make matters worse, the number of births in Italy has now fallen behind the number of deaths each year since 1994.
To put this in perspective, just under 50 years ago the population of Italy was 52 million, of which just under 10 percent, or 4.6 million, were children under the age of five. Today, the population of Italy is roughly 60.5 million, 2.5 million (or 4.2 percent) of which are children under the age of five. The current Muslim population of Italy, however, is growing rapidly.
Just before the September 11 attacks, Italy was home to some 600,000 Muslims in Italy. Nearly a decade later, in 2009, that population doubled to 1.3 million and today, the Muslim population swells over 1.5 million, according to Meotti. He adds that the Muslim population is projected to meet 2.8 million by 2030 and that the Italian population declines are occurring in the wealthiest parts of the country, where Islam is filling the vacuum.
A Mosque Every Four Days
What's more, while Italy's stunning array of churches sit empty of worshipers, the Muslim Brotherhood is setting its sights on building a new multi-million dollar mosque in Sicily reportedly paid or by Qatar, as well as smaller mosques throughout the country. More frightening still, Meotti adds:
The Mosque of Rome, which accommodates more than 12,000 people, is one of the largest mosques in Europe. It is there that the imam, an Egyptian Islamist, was suspended after preaching Jihad.
There are now an estimated 500 mosques in Italy, and 70 % of these are controlled by the Muslim Brotherhood, not to mention thousands of informal Islamic prayer centers and Koranic schools.
He adds that in Italy, "a new Islamic place of worship is established on the average of every 4 days."
The Terrorist and Libya Connections
While a paradise in many respects, Italy has also been home to some of the world's most vitriolic jihadists, including, according to Meotti, 29 suicide bombers who detonated themselves in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well eight terrorists imprisoned at Guantanamo Bay.
Now, here is where the plot thickens. Meotti points out that Sheikh Abu Iyad's henchmen involved in the Benghazi attack both hailed from Milan. Recall that Iyad, whose real name is Seifallah ben Hassine, is the former emir (or head) of the Mujahideen in Baghdad but is the current emir of Ansar al Sharia in Tunisia. Ansar al Sharia, of course, is the al Qaeda group that claimed credit for the terror attack on the U.S. diplomatic outpost in Benghazi that left Ambassador Chris Stevens, his aid Sean Smith, and two Navy SEALs dead. Also recall that one of the identified suspects in the Libya attack -- was just returned to Tunisia this week, beyond the reach of U.S. interrogators.
These are but a few of the Islamists who have taken root in a country once known for romance and a joie de vivre. Meotti reminds readers that Iraqi Hussien Saber Fadhil, dubbed "the caliph," was arrested in Venice and is believed to be al Qaeda's Italian link and that one of the bombers in the 2003 attack on the al Rasheed Hotel in Baghdad came from Milan.
A Dismal Turn
Meanwhile, the ghettos of Rome, which have long-served as a sobering reminder of the Shoah, or Holocaust, are losing their core message as anti-Semitism springs up in its place. Meotti writes:
The Italian branch of the Muslim Brotherhood released a version of the Koran that contains remarks describing Jews as morally duplicitous and as a people of rejects and swindlers. In several of the footnotes interpreting the text, the commentator, an Italian convert to Islam, suggested Jews are responsible for their own misfortunes and accuses them of being "champions of moral duplicity" who consider as "acceptable any wickedness toward non-Jews".
Meanwhile, the Italian judges are apologetic about hatred. Ucoii, the largest Islamic organization in Italy, published an ad in many mainstream newspapers entitled “Nazi Bloodshed Yesterday, Israeli Bloodshed Today". An Italian court ruled that the Nazification of Israel came under “freedom of expression” and was not a case of incitement to hatred.
Of equal consequence are the human rights abuses and string of honor killings Meotti reports have been sweeping the country. He named no less than 12 women under the age of 30 who were stabbed, poisoned, strangled or beheaded by their husbands or other family members in compliance with sharia law in the land of Italy.
Who would ever have imagined the calls of the muezzin (one who leads the call for prayer) would replace the pleasing sound of Pavarotti's melodious voice?