IMPACT: Giorgia Meloni was elected Prime Minister of Italy in 2022. In 2012, she co-founded the neo-fascist Fratelli d’Italia (Brothers of Italy), which she has been leading since 2014. Since 2020, she has been the president of the European Conservatives and Reformists Party (ECR). Meloni is known for making many anti-Muslim comments during her election campaigns.
Giorgia Meloni is a populist Italian politician. At the age of 15, she joined the right-wing Italian Social Movement (Movimento Sociale Italiano, MSI) party, which was founded by supporters of former fascist leader Benito Mussolini. At the age of 31, she took over the youth portfolio in Silvio Berlusconi’s government. In 2012, she co-founded Fratelli d’Italia (Brothers of Italy), which has the de facto successor party of the right-wing. In 2014, she became the leader of the party.
The party’s performance in the 2013 general election was unremarkable with 1.95 percent. In the 2018 general election, it captured 4.35 percent of the vote. In 2019, a new government was formed following the withdrawal of Lega Nord and Fratelli d’Italia from the government. In 2019, the Brothers of Italy won 6.44 percent of the vote in an election for the European Parliament. In 2020, Meloni was elected president of the European Conservatives and Reformists (ECR), a Eurosceptic bloc within the European Parliament, which is home to far-right parties like VOX and the Sweden Democrats.
The turnout of less than 64 percent during the 2022 general national elections resulted in a victory for Giorgia Meloni’s Brothers of Italy, which received 44 percent of the vote. She formed a government with a comfortable majority together with the anti-Muslim far-right, The League (Lega). Meloni became the first female prime minister of Italy, and an October 2022 CNN piece described her as “the most far-right leader since Benito Mussolini.” In a November 2022 piece, Dr. Alain Gabon, Associate Professor of French Studies at Virginia Wesleyan University, described Meloni’s win as sign of “the rise of a global anti-Muslim alliance.” Rights groups also expressed concern at Meloni’s win, with Human Rights Watch stating the new government “poses a human rights challenge.”
Meloni has a long history of holding anti-Muslim views and positions. She has frequently associated Islam and Muslims with terrorism. In 2015, during the run-up to the elections for the Sicilian Regional Presidency, Meloni opposed the candidature of a Muslim Italian, stating: “In all sincerity, I do not think it is a good idea to nominate for the leadership of Sicily a personality who has decided to convert to Islam […] I believe that in these years Italy and Europe must claim their Greek, Roman and Christian origins in front of those who would like to wipe them out.”
In July 2016, Meloni presented to the Chamber of Deputies a bill “for the introduction of the crime of Islamic fundamentalism,” saying, “we need to start from the ‘bad teachers’ who theorize fundamentalism, from Salafism and Wahhabism which have become the majority in Qatar and Saudi Arabia […] it has recently emerged that around 20% of Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign funds come from Saudi Arabia and that Qatar and Kuwait also have contributed generously to the cause.”
Following a deadly attack in Berlin during Christmas in 2016, Meloni called for the immediate suspension of Muslim immigrants’ reception and posted on Facebook: “The uncontrolled reception policy brings insecurity, crime, degradation and helps Islamic terrorists.”
In April 2019, Meloni posted the following anti-Muslim comment on her official Facebook page: “If Muslims think of bringing holy war into our house, it is time to take even drastic measures: all that remains is to block all forms of Islamic immigration until they clear up their ideas. We intend to defend our classical and Christian roots from the process of Islamization of Europe, do-gooders and sultans of half the world need to make a reason.”
Meloni has frequently promoted the far-right talking about a supposed “Islamization” of Europe, which claims that Muslims in Europe seek to forcibly change the culture of the continent. Any policy that is introduced to support Muslims in their right to freedom of expression and religion, is largely interpreted by far-right voices as a threat to Europe’s culture, and must therefore be stopped. In September 2019, Meloni wrote a foreword to the “First Report on Europe’s Islamization,” which was presented by the right-wing think tank Farefuturo Foundation.
In the forward, Meloni writes: “The topic of the Islamization of Europe interests us in a specific and problematic way and on this we have prepared, alongside and in support of the political battle, a close and well-equipped scientific and academic debate. Because we fear that the “prophecy” of Houellebecq, if Europe, and Italy for what concerns us closely, do not decide to have policies and tools to preserve itself, may inevitably turn into reality.” She hints to Michael Houelebecq’s book, Submission, that imagined a future France under Islamic rule following a presidential election that brings a Muslim Brotherhood-styled party to power.
The foundation’s president Adolfo Urso started his political career at the beginning of the 1980s with the right-wing Italian Social Movement (MSI). Today, he is a senator of the Italian Republic and a member of Fratelli d’Italia, whose Study Office contributed to the publication of the report. Since October 2022, he has been the Minister of Enterprises and Made in Italy.
In September 2020, Meloni wrote on Facebook: “The last word of political Islam of UCOII [Unione delle Comunità e Organizzazioni Islamiche in Italia], abetted by our usual left, to favor the Islamization of Italy is the lie by which in Italy ‘there are no places where Muslims are buried’. And thanks to this unfounded excuse, the left and radical Muslims pretend to create ‘dedicated Islamic cemeteries.’ The truth is that nothing and no one forbids a Muslim to be buried in public cemeteries just like any other Christian, Buddhist, Hinduist, or atheist citizen. Unless someone thinks that it is unworthy of a Muslim to be buried next to ‘heretics’ or in a land ‘that has got dirty by infidels.’ The only real use of Islamic cemeteries is to conquer the land and space of Europe and to submit it to Islamic law: a planned and well-known project. That tailed by left and Islamist propaganda is a mystification debunked also by those who have buried, without any problem, their Muslim loved ones in the municipal cemeteries of our cities.”
Following reports of the missing and alleged killing of a Muslim girl after her refusal to accept an arranged marriage in Pakistan in April 2021, Meloni argued: “I would like to know how is it possible that the Unione delle Comunità e Organizzazioni Islamiche in Italia (UCOII), the self-styled union of the Muslim community in Italy, believes to have the power to dictate law in our legal system. According to them, Muslims living in Italy are subject to a law other than that of the Italian state so their ‘fatwa’ is needed? This cannot be. We do not accept the fatwa or Koranic law, rules are the same for all those who live in Italy. Without exception. And everybody should affirm it, left too, despite accepting all this without saying a word of condemnation.”
Meloni came to power with the key promise to reduce immigration. When Meloni became PM in 2022, her government implemented a policy of “selective landing,” meaning that “only vulnerable people, including women and children, were allowed to disembark from specific search and rescue boats at Italian ports.” The government issued a decree that approved measures to penalize charities who rescue migrants at sea if they break a new, tougher set of rules. According to rescue charities, this regulation “[…] will inevitably result in more people tragically drowning at sea.”
Her anti-immigrant policies are interwoven with her anti-Muslim and anti-feminist policies. According to sociologist Sara R. Farris, “the femonationalist ideology […] allows us to understand why Meloni waves the banner of women’s rights only when it comes to demonizing immigrant men (as she did during this election campaign by posting a video of an asylum seeker raping a woman), or proposing family-work balance policies that would allow Italian women to have more children, so as to counter the supposedly excessive fertility of Muslim women who threaten to Islamize Europe, as Meloni has been saying for years.”
In her chapter for the European Islamophobia Report 2021, sociologist Antonia Roberta Siino writes, “right-wing political representatives, mainly belonging to the parties Fratelli d’Italia and Lega, still use news stories to invoke the so-called threat to traditional European values posed by the alleged increase of Muslim presence in Italy.”
Before and after winning the September 25, 2022 general election in Italy, Meloni made several statements against the Muslim community, exploiting social grievances. Italian-Moroccan journalist Karima Moual received death threats after she openly criticized Meloni’s far-right party’s stance on immigration and Islam.