A Muslim mayor from the Nuovo Centrodestra (New Centre Right) party, representing the Tuscan seaside community of Monte Argentario, has refused to accept any refugees. A political opponent has now sought to use the mayor’s Islamic faith as a way to criticise his stance.
Mayor Arturo Cerulli has rejected increasing political pressure put on local councils by the President of the Tuscany region and the head of the National Association of Italian Municipalities to welcome the thousands of migrants landing in Italy and help ease the refugee crisis by doing so.
The Muslim mayor recently come under attack from a political opponent on the centre left, Leonardo Marras, who accused him of failing to respect Islamic principles. In an open letter published in Italian newspapers earlier this month he wrote:
“Muslims like all the faithful believe in hospitality as a model of human relations. Is your refusal based on objective reasons or prejudice?”
Speaking to The Local yesterday Mayor Cerulli said:
“We don’t want refugees here, we don’t have the facilities for them. We don’t know where to put them, we don’t know what to do with them.”
The Muslim mayor converted to Islam 27 years ago, but rejects the notion that his faith should have anything to do with the decision, saying:
“Religion has nothing to do with it. I am speaking as the mayor, not as a global citizen.
“I have to take care of my area, my citizens. I would not know where to put refugees. If we accept six people, then they will send another six and then 20 more.”
Monte Argentario is home to the notably beautiful holiday resort towns of Porto Ercole and Porto Santo Stefano. Popular with domestic and foreign tourists, the population grows from about 13,000 to more than 30,000 in the summer. Mayor Cerulli believes this offers a solution, suggesting:
“Here it’s full of the ‘radical chic’, left-wing intellectuals. Let them open up their beautiful villas and welcome them if they think it’s better.”
Cerulli told The Local the solution to the Italian migrant crisis lies with national government and they should not be seeking to transfer it to local mayors and councils.