Wednesday, September 1, 2010
Gaddafi offers Italy's finest a job and a lecture on Islam
ITALIANS reacted angrily after Muammar Gaddafi lectured 200 actresses and models on the superiority of Islam, a day after saying that all Europeans should become Muslim.
The Libyan leader recruited the women through a modelling agency to join him and Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi at a photographic exhibition in Rome that traced historical links between the two countries.
Telling them that Islam was the ''ultimate religion'', Colonel Gaddafi insisted that ''if you want to believe in a single faith, then it must be that of Muhammad''.
An agency paid the women, mainly students who hire themselves out to advertise publicity events, €70 or €80 ($A99 to $A113) and said it would not pay women who gave their names to the media.
It told them to dress conservatively for the lectures.
The two leaders later attended a state dinner following a display of 30 thoroughbred Berber horses imported from Libya.
On Sunday night, during an encounter with 500 young women hired by the same agency, Colonel Gaddafi handed out copies of the Koran and told the women that Europe should convert to Islam.
MPs said Mr Berlusconi's increasingly close relationship with the Libyan leader was a source of embarrassment.
''If I went to Tripoli to demand that Libyans convert to Christianity, what are the odds that I would return in one piece?'' said Rocco Buttiglione, the president of a centre-right Catholic party, the UDC.
Rosy Bindi, an MP from the main opposition party, said the spectacle of hundreds of women being bussed in at Colonel Gaddafi's ''whim'' was a ''humiliating violation'' of their dignity.
Ties between Rome and its former colony have deepened since the signing of the friendship accord, with Italy now the third largest European investor in the North African country.
Italy plans to invest $US5 billion ($A5.5 billion) and build a 1700-kilometre highway to compensate for its decades of colonisation from 1911 to 1943.
The two countries also reached an agreement that allows the Italian navy to intercept migrants at sea and return them to Libya, triggering sharp criticism from the United Nations refugee agency and human rights groups.
Colonel Gaddafi travelled, as usual, with a Bedouin tent for his accommodation, which was pitched in the gardens of the residence of the Libyan embassy in Rome.
In a sign of protest, an opposition party planted a ''tent of legality'' in front of the embassy.