Italy is disturbed by the murder of a Pakistani woman and other immigrant-related violence
A series of unrelated killings here this month has pushed this elegant city to the center of a national debate on the challenges of immigration and cultural integration.
The trigger was the gruesome killing on Aug. 11 of Hina Saleem, a 20-year-old woman whose family moved here from Pakistan and who was found buried, with her throat slit, in the garden of her family home in a small town about 12 miles north of Brescia.
The tragedy ballooned into a cause célèbre after media reports alleged that Ms. Saleem had been killed because her traditionalist Muslim father objected to her Western lifestyle. She smoked and wore revealing, low-slung jeans like many young women. News reports said she had been living with an Italian man. Her body was found after her boyfriend reported her missing.
Her father and uncle have been arrested in the case. [A brother-in-law turned himself in on Thursday, and an unidentified fourth man, also of Pakistani descent, was arrested Friday and accused in the case, the ANSA news agency reported.]
“She was always happy,” said Multani Gurmail, her boss at the Antica India restaurant, where she had worked as a waitress. “I knew she had some problems. I didn’t realize how bad they were.”
The killing, and a series of other unrelated slayings involving immigrants that followed, has stirred anti-immigrant statements from some residents and groups. It also has prompted front-page debate about what can happen when conservative beliefs collide with the mores of more permissive societies, and has highlighted the generation gap between parents who have immigrated to Italy from countries with conservative social and religious traditions and their Westernized children.
Muslim leaders, who have condemned the killing, say they resent accusations that Ms. Saleem was murdered as a result of her family’s religious beliefs.
“For us, murder is a sin, not only a crime,” said Mahmood Tariq, the director of the Muhammadiah Islamic Cultural Association in Brescia. “This is an exceptional case,” he added, describing the murder as a question of tension between members of the Saleem family. “Cases like this happen in all societies.”
[On Thursday, Ms. Saleem’s mother, Bushra Bakum, dismissed notions that religion had played a role in the killing. She told reporters that Ms. Saleem had been a constant worry to her parents.
“She stayed out without explanation, we never knew where she was and with whom, she was simply a daughter who did not obey,” Ms. Bakum said. She also said she would not forgive her husband. “It’s his fault and no one else’s.”]
A few days after Ms. Saleem’s body was found, a young Italian woman was found dead in a Brescia church. A Sri Lankan immigrant who assisted the priest has been arrested in the case.
On Aug. 21, an immigrant from Morocco was arrested and charged with killing a notable painter here, and this week a Pakistani man was knifed to death during what appears to have been a robbery. It is still unclear whether the assailants were immigrants.
The result has been a round of anti-immigrant talk. A lawmaker from the anti-immigration Northern League, Angelo Alessandri, told ANSA that immigration to Italy should be limited to people who “are socially, culturally and religiously compatible with our way of life and legislation.” Some residents of this wealthy provincial capital east of Milan, in one of Italy’s most industrialized areas, have been venting their anger to the news media.
“The mayor tells us we have to live with them, but the immigrants don’t reciprocate, and this isn’t their city,” said Gloria Gatta, the owner of a cafe on the Via San Faustino, a street lined with shops catering to the neighborhood’s growing African and Asian population.
Things in Brescia have gotten so bad, she said, that “people are afraid to go out after dark.”
Comments like these prompted the mayor’s office to issue a statement addressing the recent deaths and pledging increased security measures.
Citing Ms. Saleem’s case, the statement said the city would work to ensure that women’s rights were respected “against any tribal or fundamentalist point of view.”
Honor Killing of Hina Saleem in Italy
The Death of Hina Saleem
Altar boy held for Italy murder