Mar 8, 2006 5:05 pm


The story could not be simpler or more ominous. Once again Al Qaeda is attempting to determine the outcome of Western elections. It succeeded in Spain. Failed in the US. Will it succeed in Italy? It all began with Roberto Calderoli, a provocative Northern Alliance minister, showing off a tee shirt with a picture of a Muhammad cartoon. It elicits Libyan protests (Qadafi called him,"a fascist minister who used racist, colonialist, retrograde and Crusader-like language") and he was promptly forced to resign. Last week in his recorded posting Zawahiri decides that this punishment was insufficient and calls upon Muslims to carry out a 9/11 type attack against Italy.

Calderoli stood his ground:

I didn’t provoke anyone. I just had the courage to respond to intolerable provocation. My T-shirt wasn’t intended to offend Muslims but to defend the right to have different ideas. I wanted to contest the madness of people who use religion as a false pretext for other purposes.

But the same cannot be said by the alarmed Italian leftist opposition:

“He must stop putting our country’s security at risk with his provocative gestures and statements. The struggle against al-Qaeda’s fundamentalist terrorism must be carried forward with seriousness and rigour,” said Paolo Cento of the Greens party.

One does not have to be a fan of the Northern League to agree with Roberto Castelli, the Italian Justice Minister:

We are as if in 1938. Islamic terrorism is the new Nazism. Faced with this danger, there are two ways to go – either run straight into the mosque and apologise, or repeat our willingness to defend our reason for living with all democratic means.

Be that as it may, the Italian choice is no longer a mere referendum on Berlusconi. It is a referendum on the Italian willingness to stand up to Al Qaeda.

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