Giovanni Giacalone
Eyes everywhere

Zulfiqar Khan, the Bologna-based hate preacher

The screenshot of Khan's video against Magdi Allam. Used in accordance with Clause 27a of the Copyright Law.

The “Iqraa” Islamic Center of Bologna has become a launching pad for constant attacks against Jews, Israel, the United States, and for statements in support of Hamas, all perpetrated by the local Pakistani preacher, Zulfiqar Khan.

The Deputy Prime Minister, Matteo Salvini, suggested the expulsion procedure for Khan, while two MPs of Giorgia Meloni’s party (Fratelli d’Italia) Marco Lisei and Sara Kelany, presented a parliamentary inquiry to the Minister of Interior, Matteo Piantedosi.

The Honorary Consul of Israel for Lombardy, Emilia-Romagna and Tuscany, Marco Carrai, announced that he will file a lawsuit against Khan for his hateful statements.

Against any logic or common sense from someone who is under the attention of the media and national authorities, Khan responded aggressively by publicly attacking, from the pulpit of his mosque, Deputy PM Salvini, the Undersecretary of State at the Presidency of the Council of Ministers Alessandro Morelli, the Euro MP Isabella Tovaglieri, and journalist Federica Orlandi from Bologna’s “Resto del Carlino” newspaper. (See the Washington Outsider analysis on Khan’s case).

As if it wasn’t enough, the Iqraa Islamic Center Facebook page posted two videos of Khan attacking Italian-Egyptian journalist and author Magdi Cristiano Allam (former chief editor of the Corriere della Sera newspaper), a former Muslim who converted to Christianity.

Magdi Allam has been living under police protection for years, due to the numerous death threats he received from Islamist extremists.

In the last two videos posted on the Iqraa Facebook page, Khan accused Allam of “vomiting all his evil against Islam and the Quran.

Khan also stated: “This Magdi Cristiano Allam, an Egyptian, he was a Muslim. How? I don’t need to say (to give publicity) what type of Muslim he was. Today we know him as Cristiano…”; additionally accusing him of being “far from religion” and “far from the truth”.

It is worth recalling that Khan claimed on several occasions that, since he lives in Italy and not in Israel, he has the right to say whatever he wants because the Italian Constitution allows him; he will therefore continue to “speak the truth”.

In November 2023, Khan stated: “…In Italy, thanks to Allah, we are safe, and we have the right to speak.

However, Khan’s “truth” is quite disturbing, considering the statements he made, like on May 26th when, during a sermon, he said:

This little warrior, a group of people called Hamas. They made it clear to the world that these are cowards (Israel, Zionists), they can’t do anything against men, they can only go against children, against women, against civilians.” (12.58)

We have seen, so many brothers are afraid to say that Hamas is a sincere group, mujahideen, because they had bombed all the Muslims in Europe that I must necessarily say that Hamas is a terrorist organization. They tried with me even from 7/10 onwards, we always had this position that Hamas is not a terrorist organization. They are defending their territory.” (32:47)

We thank Allah sws through these Hamas mujahideen warriors who have discovered this reality, this truth, that these (Israelis, Americans) are terrorists, they are murderers…” (53:54)

This isn’t the first time that Khan expresses such viewpoints; for instance, on April 19th, he stated that “Hamas, Hezbollah, Syria, Iran and Yemen, do not want to kill, do not want to harm civilians” and subsequently invoked: “That punishment which we are waiting for it to come from Allah, with the hands of Hamas and Hezbollah…” (19:29).

In May 2021, during a street speech in Bologna’s main square, “Piazza Maggiore”, while citing the Gospel of John, Khan stated that “…Jesus Christ, instead of going to Judea, he went to Galilee, because the Jews wanted to kill him. These Jews, I’m not saying all of them, but part of the Jews, they are cruel, they are cruel, they use intelligence to harm others.

During another sermon held on May 24th, Khan stated:

They constructed a word, Semitism. Semitism does not exist. No book talks about Semitism, antisemitism. This word was widespread after 1781…Then after 1870 they constructed the word antisemitism which came out of Germany…” (21:33).

And again:

Semitism, even if we believe that Semitism exists, these Zionists are not Semites…This is why they canceled that they wanted to bring a law, a regulation, which must make DNA of all those who live on the land of Israel. When they realized that DNA won’t turn out the way they wanted.” (22:10).

In November 2023, during the Italian mainstream TV show “Dritto e Rovescio”, Khan stated: “The Israelites are terrorists and deceivers according to the Bible,” adding that “deception with the aim of self-interest is part of the Jewish faith.”

Khan also reposted several images of Hamas terrorists with their faces covered, headbands and weapons.

Today, Tuesday July 9th, 2024, the Italian Minister of Interior finally answered to MP Sara Kelany’s inquiry regarding Khan:

The aforementioned (Khan) appears to be president of the Islamic cultural association “IQRAA” located in Bologna and, in the role of “expert” of the precepts of the Islamic religion, participates in numerous meetings (including television ones), where he has often expressed intransigent positions regarding issues on the West, on homosexuality, on the role of women and, after the attacks of 7 October, also on the Palestinian people and the Israeli Government, demonstrating appreciation for the actions carried out by Hamas.

These statements, also reported on social profiles and on the web, have already been the subject of information to the Judicial Authority, aimed at allowing the latter to carry out its own assessments regarding the possible criminal relevance of the contents expressed.”

The Minister’s statement indicates that the Italian authorities are monitoring and evaluating Khan’s situation.

However, the Minister must understand that the statements made by Khan (including the above-mentioned) are not “intransigent positions”, they are attacks against the Jewish religion and the Jews (no matter if “not all”, as Khan often claims). They are statements of support for Hamas, a terrorist organization that is blacklisted by the European Union.

It is also worth recalling that last April, a 58-year-old Algerian citizen residing in the city of Udine was expelled for posting pro-Hamas and pro-Palestinian jihad content on social media.

In addition, it is well known that a conspicuous number of individuals posting pro-ISIS content have also been expelled. Is Hamas any different from ISIS?

In today’s reply, Piantedosi stated that “from 1 January 2023 to 5 July, 22 people linked to religious terrorism/extremism circles were arrested”. It is unclear what the term “religious” means…Were they all Islamists? If yes, why not state it clearly?

It is hard to understand why Khan has so far been able to use the pulpit of his Islamic center as a stage for such a dangerous narrative. The fact that Khan holds the position of imam (in a big city of northern Italy) only makes his case further problematic, because his narrative could influence someone willing to take action.

Piantedosi cited the surveillance provided to Jewish and Israeli sites in Bologna, but that is not enough. If there is a problem at the source, that’s where it needs to be handled, and so far, this has not occurred, in this specific case at least. Why do the Jews of Bologna (and Italy in general) have to live in fear? Why should a mosque become a launching pad for extremist narrative?

About the Author
Giovanni Giacalone is a senior analyst in Islamist extremism and terrorism at the Italian Team for Security, Terroristic Issues and Managing Emergencies-Catholic University of Milan, at the Europe desk for the UK-based think tank Islamic Theology of Counter-Terrorism, and a researcher for Centro Studi Machiavelli. Since 2021 he is the coordinator for the "Latin America group" at the International Institute for the Study of Security-ITSS. In 2023 Giacalone published the book “The Tablighi Jamaat in Europe”.
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