Italy minister stirs cartoon row

An Italian government minister says he is distributing T-shirts displaying controversial cartoons satirising the Prophet Muhammad. Roberto Calderoli, a member of the anti-immigrant Northern League party, is minister without portfolio for institutional reform and devolution.

Mr Calderoli’s comments were made in an interview with the leading Italian news agency, Ansa. The minister is quoted as saying: “I’ve had T-shirts made with the cartoons that have upset Islam and I shall start wearing them today.” He added that it was “time to put an end to this story that we need to dialogue with these people”, and asked: “What have we become, the civilisation of melted butter?”

Italy’s Northern League, of which Mr Calderoli is a leading member, is expected to get about 6% of the vote in the forthcoming general election. Their anti-immigrant election platform has gained them support in the industrial north of the country where the League accuses immigrants of stealing jobs from Italians and being responsible for growing crime rates.

BBC News, 15 February 2006

This is the same Roberto Calderoni who last year called for “Islam to be declared illegal“.