One of Silvio Berlusconi’s former ministers has defended the thinking of the Norwegian mass murderer Anders Behring Breivik.
Interviewed on a popular radio show, Francesco Speroni, a leading member of the Northern League, the junior partner in Berlusconi’s conservative coalition, said: “Breivik’s ideas are in defence of western civilisation.”
Speroni spoke as other right-wingers around Europe, including leading officials of his own party, distanced themselves from the massacre on Utoya and the ideology that inspired it.
The Italian politician was endorsing the comments of another high-profile member of the league who had drawn fierce criticism for arguing that the killings might have been part of a plot to discredit hardline conservative thinkers. Like many in his party, Mario Borghezio, who sits in the European parliament, is an admirer of the writings of the late Italian journalist and author Oriana Fallaci, who popularised the term Eurabia to describe a future, supposedly Islamised Europe.
Borghezio, a member of the European parliament’s committee on civil liberties, justice and home affairs, suggested that there was something suspicious about the fact that Breivik had been able to move around freely until last Friday. He said he disagreed with the way “this massacre is being used to condemn positions like that of Oriana Fallaci”.
While describing the Norwegian killer as “unbalanced”, Borghezio said: “Christians ought not to be animals to be sacrificed. We have to defend them.” His comments brought outraged demands for his expulsion from opposition politicians and at least one member of the Berlusconi government.
The party’s chief organiser, Roberto Calderoli, who also sits in the cabinet, responded with a public apology to Norway “and above all to the relatives of the victims for the terrible, unspeakable remarks made in a personal capacity by [Mario] Borghezio”. His gesture was almost immediately undermined, however, when Speroni spoke up in defence of his party colleague, using even franker language than Borghezio.
Unlike his fellow MP, who is notorious for headline-grabbing, extremist comments, Speroni is a Northern League heavyweight. He was the minister for institutional reform in Berlusconi’s first government between 1994 and 1995 and has since been the league’s chief whip in the senate, the upper house of the Italian legislature, and the European parliament.
“I’m with Borghezio. I don’t think he should resign”, Speroni said. “If [Breivik’s] ideas are that we are going towards Eurabia and those sorts of things, that western Christian civilisation needs to be defended, yes, I’m in agreement,” he told Radio 24.
In France, the National Front announced on Tuesday it had suspended a former local election candidate who made remarks on his blog that were interpreted as supportive of Breivik.