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Liberal Muslims Battle Jihadists for Control of Rome City Council

By Paul Sokalian and Ashley Constanza

StarAndCrescentROME, ITALY – Denying his Mujtama (Unity) Party wants to impose sharia on the people of Rome, Khazin Nasri today called on the more liberal Quwwa (Strength) Party to stop trying to form a coalition government with the Christian Democrats. “The results of yesterday’s elections are clear,” said Nasri. “We won a plurality and should be given the first opportunity to prove we can rule, and rule responsibly.” Nasri went on to say that Mujtama is “jihadist” only in the sense of a spiritual struggle, a struggle that “does not include imposing Islamic law upon others. Certainly our 32% of the vote does not entitle us to do that.”

Personal Potshots and “No More Real Italians”

Meanwhile, sources close to Tasswaar Hafeez, head of Quwwa, which won 25.2% of the vote, confirm that he is in consultations with the leadership of Rome’s Christian Democrats who placed third with 21.6%. At issue is the protection of the Vatican. While Quwwa has pledged such protection and would seem a more natural ally of the Christian Democrats, there has been bad blood between Hafeez and Carlo Rizzo, the Christian Democrats’ number two man. Last year Rizzo made headlines with comments that cited Hafeez’s family. He said that, while Hafeez’s six daughters “could by themselves make a volleyball team” and that they, plus Hafeez’s five sons “could make a football (soccer) team if Muslims would stop being so backward and let men and women play together,” the birthrate of what Rizzo called “real Italians” continues to plummet.  RichPastaHe said, “At this rate – 1.2 children per Italian mother – by the end of this century there will be no more real Italians. Pasta will be a foreign food.”

In response, younger leaders within Rome’s Christian Democrats tried to strip Rizzo of his position or, failing that, to censure him. Their efforts failed. And Rizzo has since made conciliatory statements about Hafeez and liberal Muslims. But Rizzo continues to boast of his power as kingmaker, pointing to his personal relationship with the leadership of both Rome’s Social Democrats, who garnered 11.3% of yesterday’s vote, and Rome’s Green Party, which won 8.5%. Either party would be necessary to form a governing coalition with Quwwa and the Christian Democrats. A Mujtama-Christian Democrat coalition would not need any other party, and hence would not need Rizzo’s “kingmaker” powers.

But sources close to the Social Democrats and the Greens say there is some resentment at the Christian Democrats “taking us for granted for so long.” There are reports that both parties are even in talks with Mujtama and Nasri. Since votes for City Council President are allocated proportionally to the popular vote, theoretically their combined 19.8% of the vote, when added to Mujtama’s 32.1% would give them a 51.9% majority, enough to elect Mr. Nasri. But this morning a web petition, gaining considerable support among Social Democrat and Green voters, has appeared, denouncing any deal with Mujtama as “a sell-out to the Jihadists.”

Would the Pope Back Jihadists?

PopeIn this battle, the most enigmatic player seems to be Pope Clement XV. Vatican sources say the Pope is not necessarily against a government led by Mujtama. The Pope is said to have been shocked by unconfirmed reports, earlier this year, of Tasswaar Hafeez’s involvement in the notorious “Ostia Antica Deal,” which has led to the indictment of dozens of Rome’s leading real estate moguls. By contrast, the Pope is said to be impressed by Nasri’s and Mujtama’s “moral purity.” And there are other calculations. The Pope might support Mujtama locally in return for its promise to influence fellow Jihadists to give better treatment to Christians living in Jihadist-run countries such as Egypt.

Many within the Vatican call the Pope “naive” to believe such a promise would mean anything. And they point to an audio recording, made last Christmas, of a man whom some acoustic experts have identified as Khazin Nasri, denigrating the Pope’s political power, quoting Soviet leader Joseph Stalin who, in 1944, mockingly said, “How many divisions has the Pope?” Nasri and Mujtama have denounced the recording as a counterfeit, created by Hafeez and Quwwa.

Meanwhile, bargaining continues furiously, among all the political parties. Both Nasri and Hafeez have declared that they will have a coalition in place by the end of the week.  At the moment, any combination seems possible – except a Mujtama-Quwwa coalition.  That is ruled out on both ideological grounds and personal grounds; only last month, Hafeez made much of an eight-day fast in honor of his father, assassinated by Nasri’s younger brother in Beirut eight years ago in the midst of Lebanon’s decades’-long sectarian violence. It is an assassination which Khazin Nasri has never denounced.