ROME — Italy has repatriated a radicalized Moroccan imam who posted antisemitic and anti-Christian messages on social media as well as praising the Islamic State terror group.
The Italian interior ministry issued a statement saying the 41-year-old imam, identified only by the initials “M.G.,” had been deported due to “state security.”
“An imam of Moroccan origin, M.G., resident in Padua and linked to the Al Hikma place of worship, was expelled by decree of the Minister of the Interior Luciana Lamorgese for reasons of state security,” the statement read.
The man was “investigated for expressing sympathy for Al Baghdadi’s caliphate and support for jihadists fighting in Syria,” the statement continued. “In this context, it has also been documented how the Moroccan citizen had shared several jihadist propaganda videos on his Facebook page.”
Among other things, the imam’s wife, also of Moroccan origin, denounced him in 2018 “for ill-treatment and injury for the beatings suffered whenever she refused to wear the niqab.”
The imam, born in Rabat in 1978, was trained as a mechanic and entered Italy in October 2006, obtaining a residence permit from the immigration office of the Padua police force in 2009. His residence permit was revoked Saturday following his expulsion.
The Padua police issued its own statement describing the nature of the investigation into the imam.
“Constant monitoring by Padua’s ‘Digos’ counterterrorism office of conduct revealing adherence to jihadist ideology has allowed investigators to focus on the 41-year-old Moroccan, also known to the Homeland Security Agency,” the statement read, “bringing to light clearly symptomatic elements of a violent view of Islam by the anti-Western and anti-Semitic man, as well as a vision of women’s subjugation.”
“The man posted numerous anti-Semitic propaganda messages on the web, in which he extolled Adolf Hitler’s policy against the Jewish population as well as messages that in apocalyptic tones condemn the holidays of Christmas and New Year,” the note continued. He also posted teachings of Salafist theologians warning that “those who accepted or exchanged Christmas greetings would face the wrath of Allah.”
“Particularly alarming is the publication of a document extolling the practice of jihad and mosques that transform from places of prayer to places of explosion,” it declared.
Italy has successfully thwarted a series of Islamic terror attacks of the sort that have pummeled France, Belgium, Germany, Spain, and other European countries in recent years.
Along with intense surveillance and a relatively small Muslim population, Italian officials point to a willingness to immediately deport radicals who pose a terror threat.
Saturday’s expulsion represents the first deportation in 2020 of a person deemed dangerous to the security of the state, but the sum total of deportations from 2015 to the present stands at 462, including 98 in 2019 and 126 in 2018.
In 2015, a prominent military analyst held up Italy as a model of counterterrorism done right, noting that despite many factors going against it, Italy has not suffered a single death from Islamic terrorists.
In his essay in the Nikkei Asian Review, Romanian-born political scientist and military analyst Edward N. Luttwak suggested that much of Italy’s success in counterterrorism lies in its willingness to deport those it considers to be a threat to national security.
Luttwak contrasted Italy with France and Belgium, noting that although Italy is much more vulnerable than they are, it has been far more effective at stopping would-be terrorists before they strike.
Whereas France has been “caught by surprise again and again by terrorist attacks with many lives lost,” and in Belgium, “terrorists have been coming and going for years, buying military weapons with remarkable ease,” Italy has remained untouched, he wrote.
So despite the fact that the Vatican is the “most iconic target in Europe” and tops the list of objectives of the Islamic State, as yet, “nobody has been killed by Muslim terrorists in Italy,” Luttwak observed.