Libyan leader Moamer Kadhafi's visit to Italy to mark the second anniversary of a friendship treaty with former coloniser Italy stumbled into controversy Monday after he said Europe should convert to Islam. Kadhafi made the comments on Sunday during a lecture to 500 young women hired and paid by an agency to attend his lecture.
"Islam should become the religion of all of Europe," one of the women quoted Kadhafi as saying in the Italian press.
The agency paid 80 euro to every woman to attend and said it would not pay girls who gave their names to the press. It also told them to dress conservatively for the lecture.
About 200 women on Monday gathered at the Libyan cultural centre in Rome to attend a second lecture. According to AFP, one of the women present said that Kadhafi had said at the gathering that "women are more respected in Libya than in the West" and offered assistance in finding Libyan husbands.
"Islam is the last religion and if we are to have a single faith then it has to be in Mohammed," he said, according to the participant. The lectures are "a new, humiliating violation of Italian women's dignity," opposition lawmaker and former health minister Rosy Bindi said.
Kadhafi's show also caused discomfort within the coalition of Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi. "Kadhafi's words show his dangerous Islamisation project for Europe," said European MP Mario Borghezio of the anti-immigrant Northern League, junior partner in the coalition, according to Il Messaggero.