On Saturday, during an Islamic conference being held by the Islamic Federation of Liguria in the small town of Savona, Liguria, one of its leaders personally veiled the lower part of a statue of the Theban leader Epaminondas, as he is depicted nude. The case has since received national attention and outraged the Italian Right.
The conference was held at the community theater in Savona. The statue stands in the center of the hall, and dates from 1880. According to one of the people in charge of the theater, the veiling was done in such a way as to “represent desert dunes,” and he took a photo of the resulting work.
The newspapers have been widely reporting on it, and the Italian Right is most indignant. Matteo Salvini, the leader of the League, which prevailed in last month’s national elections, asked, “Am I the only one who sees this as madness?” and Ylenja Lucaselli, an MP for the Nationalist Brothers of Italy, described it as “a consequence of failed multiculturalism.”
“We must protect our history from any attempt to obscure it,” Lucaselli added.
For its part, the Islamic Federation denied any attempt at censorship. “We covered the statue, but only for a few hours,” they said in a statement. “Our Islam is moderate.”
Already in January 2016, a similar controversy shook the country during a visit by Iranian President Hassan Rouhani. On that occasion, several ancient Roman statues had been covered with large boxes to mask their nakedness. “Should the hijab also be used in works of art in the name of integration?” asked Barbara Saltamartini, an MP for the League. Prime Minister Matteo Renzi also agreed to remove wine from his table during his meeting with Rouhani.