Murders in Brescia Lead to Anti-Immigrant Talk and Concerns Over Integration

August 26, 2006

Source: The New York Times

On August 26, 2006 The New York Times reported, "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.]... 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... 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... According to the Catholic charity Caritas, there are about 110,000 immigrants among the 1.1 million people living in the province of Brescia. Pakistani leaders estimate there are about 10,000 people of Pakistani origin in the area."