Said one lawmaker: “If I went to Tripoli to demand that Libyans convert to Christianity, what are the odds that I would return in one piece?”
Italians have reacted with indignation after Muammar Gaddafi lectured 200 young actresses and models on the superiority of Islam, a day after saying that Europeans should all become Muslim.
Silvio Berlusconi’s increasingly close relationship with Col Gaddafi is becoming a source of embarrassment for the Italian prime minister, according to opposition MPs and even members of the government.
On Monday, the Libyan leader recruited the women through a modelling agency to join him and Mr Berlusconi, in viewing a photography exhibition at a Rome cultural institute which traced historical links between the two countries.
Telling them that Islam was the “ultimate religion”, Gaddafi insisted that “if you want to believe in a single faith then it must be that of Mohammed,” according to one of the women who sat through the lecture.
Afterwards the two leaders were due to attend a cavalry school to watch a display of riding involving 30 thoroughbred Berber horses imported specially from Libya, followed by a state dinner.
On Sunday night, during an encounter with 500 young women hired by the same agency, Col Gaddafi handed out copies of the Koran and told them that Europe should convert to Islam.
“If I went to Tripoli to demand that Libyans convert to Christianity, what are the odds that I would return in one piece?” said Rocco Buttiglione, the president of a centre-Right Catholic party, the UDC.
Italy was becoming a “Disneyland”-style theme park for Gaddafi’s “senile vanities”, said Fare Futuro, a political foundation linked to Gianfranco Fini, a senior government power broker with whom Mr Berlusconi recently had a dramatic falling out.
Rosy Bindi, an MP from the main opposition party, said that the spectacle of hundreds of Italian women being bussed in at Col Gaddafi’s whim was a “humiliating violation” of their dignity.
And mighty creepy.