Reuters, Jan. 12, 2003
ROME – A group of far-right extremists burst into an Italian local television station late on Friday and beat up an outspoken Muslim activist appearing on a live talk show.
Adel Smith, head of the Italian Union of Muslims, and his associate Massimo Zucchi, were punched and kicked by more than 20 youths who forced their way into the studios of a small TV channel based in the northern Italian city of Verona.
Police said on Saturday they had arrested six of the attackers and had identified a further 17 suspects, all members of the neo-fascist Forza Nuova (New Force) movement.
Smith, who has caused outrage in Italy with his virulent criticism of both Israel and the Roman Catholic faith, went back on air immediately after the assault, his clothes dishevelled.
“We are not only ready to be beaten up in order to defend our ideas, we are also ready to die,” said Smith defiantly, standing alongside Zucchi, whose face was bruised and bleeding.
Local authorities said they were appalled by the violence.
“I’m ashamed for this city. This is the sort of fascist attack that I hoped never to see again,” said Luigi Vinco, head of Verona’s TeleNuovo TV station.
Smith, who got involved in a punch-up with a fellow guest during another Italian TV chat show last weekend, has sparked fury in Roman Catholic Italy by denouncing the crucifix as “a little body hung on two pieces of wood.”
Other Italian Muslim leaders have distanced themselves from Smith. He says his union represents more than 5,000 people and will eventually be turned into a political party.