Faro Convention Imperils Italy’s Heritage

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by Jules Gomes  •  ChurchMilitant.com  •  September 29, 2020   

'Muhammad in Hell' painting faces threat from Islamic censorship

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ROME (ChurchMilitant.com) - Italy's cultural heritage, rooted in Catholicism, faces a potential threat from the nation's Parliament signing the Faro Convention, politicians and cultural critics are warning.

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Parliamentarians hold up posters of the Riace Bronzes

Italy on Thursday signed the Council of Europe Framework Convention on the Value of Cultural Heritage for Society, adopted 15 years ago by the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe in Faro, Portugal.

"With Islam's iconoclastic fury ever nearer," conservatives fear that Articles 4 and 7 of the convention could "turn into a geo-cultural weapon against Italy's cultural heritage."

Articles 4 and 7 of the convention restrict the "right to cultural heritage ... necessary in a democratic society for the protection of the public interest and the rights and freedoms of others." The convention also calls for heritage to "be inclusive, not exclusive."

'Censorship' to Appease Islam

The signing has triggered alarm bells, with cultural critics citing recent jihadi attacks on Giovanni da Modena's painting depicting Islam's founder, Muhammad, in Hell.

Parliamentarians from the Lega (League) and Fratelli d'Italia (Brothers of Italy) political parties protested against the covenant in the Chamber of Deputies by displaying posters of the Riace Bronzes — two fifth-century Greek bronzes of naked, bearded warriors — with the slogan "Nothing to hide."

Speaking to Church Militant, Lega Party deputy Vito Comencini said that Italian culture was "risking censorship so as not to offend Islam."

He explained:

Only the center-Left could legitimize this absurdity. The League is the only party to have defended Italy, opposing the ratification of the Faro Convention in Parliament. It is a fundamental battle of identity and values. It was only right to oppose a Jacobin convention that puts our freedom at risk. The risk that a committee of experts will censor our works and therefore our culture is very high. 

Fratelli d'Italia deputy Andrea Delmastro blasted the treaty as "a manifesto of cultural submission," rejecting the imposition of a "Big Brother" who must "mediate" with "respect to the sensitivities of minority communities on our artistic and cultural heritage."

Catholic Expression Threatened

In comments to Church Militant, fellow of the prestigious Royal Society of Arts Joseph Shaw noted that "the cultural heritage of Italy is not just a matter of Roman remains and paintings of landscapes."

He said a great deal of Italian art is inseparably connected with the Catholic Church and includes many of the world's "most sublime expressions of Catholic thought."  

The Muslims in Bologna have won; the fresco is still where it was, but now can no longer be seen because it has to be protected from Muslims.

"This is accepted by Italians of culture even if they are not believers themselves, and it makes Italian culture uniquely vulnerable to attack by those who object to Catholic values," he added.

Shaw, an Oxford academic in medieval philosophy, elaborated:

In museums and galleries around the world, one often sees in the way Catholic art is presented and explained a failure to understand it at quite a basic level and worse than that — increasing embarrassment about what it means. This can lead to neglect of it in comparison with other forms of art and even removing items from display.

In 2002, a jihadi outfit linked to al-Qaida planned to blow up Bologna's biggest church in order to destroy Modena's 15th-century Gothic fresco "The Inferno," portraying Muhammad being tormented by demons in Hell. 


Modena was inspired by Italian poet Dante Alighieri, who, in his Divine Comedy, consigned Muhammad to the ninth circle of Hell — reserved for religious schismatics.

In 2006, police uncovered a second jihadi plot to bomb Bologna's basilica.

A great deal of Italian art is inseparably connected with the Catholic Church and includes many of the world's most sublime expressions of Catholic thought.

"Even though the two plots by Muslims to bomb the basilica were foiled, other Muslims have since called for the Catholic Church itself to demolish, or if not that, at least to 'remove,' this fresco," Jihad Watch reported.

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Statues boxed up during Rouhani's visit to Rome

Acquiescence Expanding 

"The Church [prior to the Francis pontificate] did not yield to this demand, and the fresco remains where it was," Jihad Watch noted, lamenting that, in order to protect the painting, a metal grate has been installed, obscuring the view of Modena's masterpiece.

The upshot, Jihad Watch said, is that:

[T]he Muslims in Bologna have won; the hated fresco is still where it was, but now it is a part of Italy's art heritage that can no longer be seen and admired because it has to be protected from Muslims. They didn't blow it up, but they have managed to render it scarcely visible.

Last year, for the Feast of San Petronio, Bologna's archbishop Cdl. Matteo Zuppi banned in his diocese pork-filled tortellini — the pride of Bolognese cuisine — because he did not want to offend Muslims.

Shaw underlined the potential dangers of Italians "opening themselves up to the norms of self-appointed international enforcers of 'cultural sensitivity.'" He called to mind "physical attacks on religious artifacts and the kind of 'cultural cringe' which led to the boarding up of nudes when Iran's president visited Rome."

Rome's Capitoline Museum boxed up some of its statues when Iranian President Hassan Rouhani held a press conference with former Italian prime minister Matteo Renzi in 2016.

If Italians do not stick up for their culture the consequences are incalculable.

The sculptures included figurines of nude Greek and Roman gods and goddesses, including the statue of Capitoline Venus — representing a nude Venus-Aphrodite emerging from her bath.

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Rouhani with Pope Francis on a visit to the Vatican

Rewriting the Classics

Leading art critic Vittorio Sgarbi slammed the treaty as "politically correct crap," exposing Italy to a "very high risk of censorship."

"If there is a painting with Muhammad in it, what do I do, should I delete it?" Sgarbi asked, naming Modena's fresco.

Scarbi also cited the example of Florence's mayor, Dario Nardella, who ordered a change to the tragic ending of Bizet's opera Carmen in 2018 to appease feminists.

In the revised ending, the male protagonist, Don José, is killed instead of Carmen, who dies in the opera's original version.  

"If the Italians do not stick up for their culture, the consequences are incalculable," Shaw warned.

Italy's Muslim population has skyrocketed a thousandfold in 50 years — from 2,000 in 1970 to 2 million in 2020.

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