The country in question is Italy, where Toni Iwobi is a newly-elected member of the Italian Parliament. He is also the first black senator in Italy’s history. He came to the country forty-two years ago, legally, on a student visa. He first enrolled in the Universita per stranieri in Perugia, to learn the language. He always worked. He was willing to take on any task to earn a living, so as not to become a burden on Italian taxpayers. He was a garbage collector, worked in construction, learned to do plumbing, all the while also studying to get a degree in accounting and computer science. Having come to Italy with nothing but his desire to succeed, he now owns and runs an IT security and services company in Spirano, a town where he has lived most of his 42 years in Italy.
He has also been deeply involved in Italian politics, having been a member for 25 years of The League (La Lega), formerly the Northern League, a political group that is center-right though tendentiously identified as “far-right” by most of the media. That “far-right” epithet is used to blacken the League’s name for one reason only: the party has been declared to be “anti-immigrant.” In fact, as Toni Iwobi has repeatedly said, in his appearances on Italian television (where in excellent Italian he defends his party’s message), the League is not against immigrants. It is against illegal immigrants, and above all, against illegal Muslim immigrants.
As a black man, Iwobi poses problems for his opponents. He cannot easily be accused of “racism.” Furthermore, his is the perfect immigrant success story: someone who arrived with nothing, not a word of Italian, not a lira, not a single relative, not any connections, and who studied first the language, and then, while holding down that succession of jobs (garbage collector, manual laborer, plumber) I’ve already mentioned, studied at night and obtained a degree in accounting and computer science. He now has built his own computer security company, giving work to fellow Italians.
Toni Iwobi has been put in charge of immigration and security policy by the League’s leader, Matteo Salvini. In this post he can bring to bear another part of his experience, as a Roman Catholic growing up in Nigeria, a country where Muslim persecution of Christians has gone on for many decades. It did not start in the last few years, with Boko Haram, or the Fulani herders who this year have been massacring Christians and destroying churches in western Nigeria. As a boy, he lived through the series of attacks by Muslims on Christian Nigerians, especially those members of the Ibo tribe who were living in the mainly Muslim north of Nigeria. The anti-Christian attacks finally proved to be too much for the Christians in the south to endure, and in 1967 they decided to declare their independent state of Biafra, in southern Nigeria, where Christians could be safe from Muslim persecution. The Muslim north went to war to suppress the state of Biafra; the war lasted from 1967 to 1969, more than a million civilians died, and ultimately the Christian Biafrans were crushed. The northern Muslims received military aid from fellow Muslims in Egypt, and Egyptian pilots, flying Migs, strafed the villages of the Christian Ibo, killing tens of thousands. But none of the major Western powers in the supposedly Christian West helped the Biafrans because, in both Washington and London, it was felt that the most populous black African state should not be divided, as that might damage African pride. This bizarre argument condemned the Christians to defeat in 1969. In the late 1960s, there was little comprehension in the West of the menace of Islam, even though the Biafran leader Colonel Ojukwu, in his famous Ahiara Declaration, spoke about the Christian Nigerian victims of what he forthrightly described as a “Jihad.” Iwobi lived through all of this. He became well aware of the threat of Islamic supremacism, as he experienced it in Nigeria as a young man, and as he today sees the same problem appear and increase pari passu with the increase in the number of Muslim immigrants in Italy.
When Iwobi declares his opposition to illegal migrants, about the need to promptly deport illegals to their countries of origin, he is speaking about illegal immigrants from all over. But when he also speaks about the need to severely limit even legal migration from certain countries, he does not have to spell it out for others to understand; Iwobi here is speaking mainly about the threat of Muslim migrants. The leader of his party, Matteo Salvini, has raised this issue of limiting or ending Muslim migration into Italy; Iwobi to date been more circumspect, but has made clear his perfect agreement with Salvini, and now that he is a senator, Iwobi may feel from that bully pulpit in the Italian parliament he can speak directly about the matter.
Before there was Iwobi, there were two figures in Italy whose articulate denunciations of Islam, based on their personal experience, helped create and sustain a healthy wariness about Islam among Italians. Their influence helps explain why Italy makes it almost impossible for mosques to be legally built — only eight are officially recognized in the whole country, and why Italians remain so intelligently hostile to Muslim migrants; Italy has less than one-third the number of Muslims as France or Germany.
The first influential anti-Islam figure in Italy was Oriana Fallaci, who gave vent to her fury with Islam and Muslims in her book The Rage and the Pride, written in white heat just after the attacks of 9/11/ 2001. Fallaci could not be dismissed as “right-wing”; for nearly forty years she had been the most famous left-wing journalist in Italy, and what’s more, she had spent a lot of time in the Muslim world, interviewing the likes of Qaddafy, Khomeini, and Arafat, even finding herself embedded with a PLO unit being bombarded by the Israelis. She knew Muslims in the Middle East, at close quarters, and what she learned about their attitudes horrified her. More horrifying still, to this Tuscan loyalist, was that so many Muslims were coming illegally into Italy by the hundreds of thousands. She recounts her fury at seeing how Muslim migrants urinated on Lorenzo Ghiberti’s Gates of Paradise, the main gate to the Baptistery in Florence, one of the greatest masterpieces of Renaissance art. She saw how Muslims defecated in Florentine churches, demonstrating their contempt for Christianity. She saw them camping out in all their squalor, taking over public squares in Italian towns to say their prayers en masse. Her book was a bestseller in Italy and did a lot to make Italians aware of Muslim attitudes, and thus wary of their presence. Islam is still not one of Italy’s officially recognized religions. Oriana Fallaci’s writings had much to do with this.
The second influential anti-Islam public personality in Italy has been Magdi Allam, now Magdi Cristiano Allam, who was raised as a Muslim in Egypt, and came to Italy, where he eventually converted to Christianity in 2008 (he was baptized by Pope Benedict himself). He started writing about Islam and, having mastered Italian, became an editor at the most important Italian newspaper, Corriere della Sera, as well as a frequent guest on television talk shows. He became an Italian citizen and, while continuing to write as a journalist, was elected a member of the European Parliament. Like Fallaci with her left-wing politics, Allam’s personal history, as a former Muslim, has made his anti-Islam testimony that much more credible. He understands the menace of Islam, and is completely unafraid (though he now has guards furnished by the Italian state) to describe it in print and on television. He speaks frequently as the head of his own political movement, Io amo l’Italia (I Love Italy), and his latest book is “I Love Italy — But Do the Italians Love It?” (“Io amo l’Italia: Ma gli italiani la amano?”), in which he describes his alarm over the mounting threat both of Islamic terrorism and of campaigns of Da’wa (proselytizing for Islam) by Muslims in Italy. Naturally his exposure of the methods used to proselytize have angered both Muslims in Italy and apologists for Islam in the European Parliament. Like Oriana Fallaci, he is tireless, articulate, and driven. As the Man Who Knows Too Much, he drives Muslims crazy.
Toni Iwobi will likely be the third in this line of distinguished islamocritics who know Islam from up close. Like Fallaci and Allam, his personal history brought him into intimate and prolonged contact with Muslims, and he cannot be fooled into believing that Islam is a religion of “peace” and “tolerance.” He, and his fellow Christians in Nigeria, have suffered too much, from the Biafra War of the late 1960s that ended in disaster, from Boko Haram’s kidnappings and church burnings during the last few years, and most recently, for over a year, from the Fulani herders massacring Christians today. Toni Iwobi is in the right place — in charge of immigration and security policy for the League — at the right time. One online commenter suggested, far too optimistically, that Iwobi, a Roman Catholic, could obtain an audience with the Pope, whose views on Islam are both deplorable and bizarre, and set him straight. That, I’m afraid, would be impossible. Pope Francis has his trusting interfaith mind made up, and would not countenance taking tuition from the “far-right” likes of Toni Iwobi. But among the general public, as a political figure, Iwobi can do a world of good, simply by sharing his own long experiences of Islam and, like Fallaci and Allam before him, sounding the tocsin that needs to be heard — without benefit, given Pope Francis’s views, of (Vatican) clergy.
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