Italy: Muslim official backs president in Turin book fair spat

Italy: Muslim official backs president in Turin book fair spat

Italian president Giorgio Napolitano is right to inaugurate the Turin book fair on Thursday to affirm Israel”s right to exist, according to a senior official from one of Italy”s Muslim groups.

“I express my complete solidarity with Italy”s president of the republic, Giorgio Napolitano, on behalf of COREIS, and also with the Turin book fair”s director, Ernesto Ferrero,” Italian Islamic religious community vice-president Yahya Pallavicini told Adnkronos International (AKI).

COREIS mainly represents Italian converts to Islam.

Pallavicini”s comments came after a prominent Muslim academic, Tariq Ramadan, criticised Napolitano”s attendance at the opening of the Turin book fair.

Napolitano was “proving with his presence that it is a political rather than a cultural event,” Ramadan said.

To mark the 60th anniversary of the Jewish state on Thursday, the Turin book fair – Italy”s most prestigious – has made Israel guest of honour at this year”s event, drawing criticism from the Italian left and some Muslims.

Ramadan also accused Napolitano of “the mistake of accusing anyone who criticises Israel of anti-semitism,” claims that were rebutted by the Italian presidential palace in a statement on Monday.

“Criticism of the Israeli government”s policies is wholly legitimate, first and foremost from within Israel. What is unacceptable is any denial of the legitimacy of Israel, which was born of the will of the United Nations in 1948, and of its right to exist in peace and security,” said the statement.

Ramadan earlier this year called for “whoever has a conscience,” to boycott this year”s Turin book fair.

Ramadan, who is of Egyptian descent, is a prominent Muslim philosopher and grandson of the international Sunni Islamist Muslim Brotherhood Movement”s founder, Hassan al-Banna.

“I re-emphasise my strong opposition towards and criticism of Tariq Ramadan,” said Pallavicini.

“Apart from his dubious opinions, he shows the will to attack institutions that is typical of the Muslim Brotherhood, and to lack a sense of the state or respect for the president of the republic.”

Pallavicini will also attend the opening on Thursday of the Turin book fair “as a citizen who does not share the opinions of Ramadan and the stances taken by the Muslim Brotherhood.”

“Ramadan, like every other member of the Muslim Brotherhood harbours rancour not only towards Arab regimes, but also towards democratic governments,” said Pallavicini.