Right-wing Italian politician causes stir, saying migrants ‘wipe out’ white race
Speaking to local Radio Padania on Monday, Attilio Fontana of the right-wing, nationalist Northern League (Lega Nord) party alleged migrants are threatening the very existence of the white race, making his opponents bicker over the remark.
“We cannot [accept all asylum seekers] because we won't all fit, so we have to make choices,” he said, as cited by La Repubblica newspaper, adding that Italy must decide “if our ethnicity, if our white race, if our society, should continue to exist or if it should be wiped out.”
Attempting to justify his claim, Fontana said that being unwilling to take in all arrivals “isn't a question of being xenophobic or racist, but a question of being logical or rational.”
Fontana, who previously served as a mayor of the town of Induno Olona, and later a mayor of the city of Varese is running for region’s president during the Lombardy election scheduled to take place on March 4, the same day as Italy’s general elections which sees Matteo Salvini, the leader of Northern League, as one of the candidates for the country’s premiership.
Salvini's party is participating in elections in a center-right alliance with Silvio Berlusconi's Forza Italia party and the far-right Brothers of Italy.
On Monday, Salvini said his party sitting in the government will “regulate every Islamic presence in the country,” Italy’s ANSA news agency reports. Though he avoided siding with Fontana’s remarks, the Northern League leader took aim at Muslims, saying there is an “invasion taking place.”
Adding that “skin color has nothing to do with it,” Salvini claimed that “there is a very real danger that centuries of [Italian] history risk disappearing if the Islamization – so far underestimated – takes over.”
Fontana sought to play down the “white race” remarks later on Monday. While on the campaign event in northern Italy, he put them down to a “slip of the tongue,” insisting he simply wanted Italy to revise its immigration policy in order to safeguard “our history and our society.”
Nevertheless, the controversial remark by Fontana sparked outrage among his political rivals, the center-left and the anti-establishment Five Star Movement.
Giorgio Gori of the Democratic Party, Fontana’s prime rival for the governorship of Lombardy, tweeted: “There are those who talk of pitchforks and a white race. We’re talking about training, jobs, growth, Europe. You choose.”
Former Prime Minister Matteo Renzi who leads the Democratic Party also took aim at his opponents.
“The [Northern] League speaks of invasion and white race,” he tweeted. “I and Giorgio Gori speak of innovation and human capital. During the March 4 vote, there will be a derby in Lombardy between rancor and hope, between past and future.”
The leader of the anti-establishment Five Star Movement (M5S), Luigi Di Maio, suggested that Fontana’s comments unmasked the true face of the Northern League and its coalition partners led by Berlusconi.
“Berlusconi says that we’re worse than post-communists, that they’re moderates and we’re extremists,” Di Maio said. “If they’re moderates then I’m Gandhi.”
Italy’s Jewish leaders said Fontana's remark was reminiscent of infamous 1938 anti-Semitic racial laws adopted during Benito Mussolini's dictatorship. “It's inconceivable that in 2018 one must repeat to ignorant ones that there doesn't exist a white race to defend, 80 years after the promulgation of the racial laws," Ruth Dureghello, president of Rome's Jewish community, wrote.
Since the outbreak of the refugee crisis in 2015, Italy – along with Greece – has been a main gateway for migrants seeking entry into Europe. So far this year, some 85,217 migrants have been rescued and brought to Italian shores, according to the Italian Interior Ministry, with the figure marking an 8.9 percent year-on-year increase.
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