A group of party girls got more than they bargained for when they were recruited to attend a posh do in Rome on Sunday night.
Instead of canapÃ©s and cocktails, the 200 young women found themselves being encouraged to become Muslims.
It turned out the host was Libya’s leader, Col Muammar Gaddafi, in town for the UN food summit.
He spoke of the wonders of Islam and assured his guests it was not anti-women, as some critics argue.
The Libyan leader is in Italy to attend a United Nations summit on world food security. Reports said that Colonel Gaddafi’s aides phoned an agency which provides elegantly dressed young women to act as hospitality staff at events.
The agency was asked to send 500 women to the residence of Hafed Gaddur, the Libyan ambassador in Rome, where Colonel Gaddafi is staying, over a series of evenings during the three day summit.
The agency advertised for “500 pleasing girls between 18 and 35 years of age, at least one metre 70 high.” The women were asked to dress elegantly but soberly, with both miniskirts and cleavage-revealing decolletage firmly banned.
Those who replied were offered ‚¬60 (Â£53) to attend an evening at the villa for an “exchange of opinions” and to “receive a Libyan gift”, which turned out to be a copy of the Koran. They were given nothing to eat or drink, however.
Paola Lo Mele, a journalist with the Italian news agency ANSA who posed as a hostess to enter the villa, said the 200 women who attended yesterday had to pass through metal detectors, before being ushered by white turbanned Libyan staff into a “sumptuous drawing room” with white and red divans arranged in a semi-circle in front of Colonel Gaddafi. He arrived an hour late. He sat next to an interpreter and two of his renowned female guards.
The Libyan leader said it was “untrue that Islam is against women” according to Corriere della Sera. He urged the women to convert to Islam, pointing out that whereas there were four different Gospels, there was only one Koran.
He then observed — to “general incredulity” — that Christ had not died on the Cross and been resurrected, as Christians believe, because the person crucified had been “a look-alike” who was substituted for the real Jesus.
“Convert to Islam. Jesus was sent to the Jews, not for you. Mohammed, on the other hand, was sent for all human beings,” he reportedly said. “Whoever goes in a different direction than Mohammed is wrong. God’s religion is Islam, and whoever follows a different one, in the end, will lose,” Colonel Gaddafi added, according to La Stampa.