Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Mussolini's "Sword of Islam," Made in Florence

On 17 March 1937, Benito Mussolini, having conquered Libya, posed himself as the protector of Islam, receiving a "Sword of Islam" from local notables in Tripoli. Where did the sword come from, though? Not from Libya but Italy itself.
"An English newspaper reported sarcastically that the 'Sword of Islam' had been manufactured by a goldsmith in Florence" (Margret Boveri, Mediterranean Cross-currents, Trans. Louise Marie Sieveking, Oxford UP, 1938, p. 25).

"Having purchased 'The Sword of Islam' as near to home as Florence and hired Libyan Jewish goldsmiths to engrave Arabic designs on it, the Duce presented it to himself with grotesque solemnity" (William N. Connor, The English at War, Secker & Warburg, 1941, p. 45).

"This sword had been made in Florence after a model published in a German book at the time of Wilhelm II" (Dorothy Norman, Twice a Year, 1948, p. 68).
Far from a sign of affinity between Islam and the European Far Right that some take it to be, it is a piece of colonial photo op, already judged tawdry by all thinking people even back then.

The same charade, by the way, continues to this day. Just as Fascist Italy pretended to defend Muslims from British and French imperialists, the American empire, too, presents itself as the liberator, this time promising liberation not from other empires but from local "tyrants and dictators."

1 comment:

mima said...

And in fact the sword was given to Mussolini by Yusuf Cherbish (also spelled Jusuf Cherbisc), a Berber chief that had already served Italian State in Lybia for twenty years. A plain and simple propaganda op, in fact. And since are Islamophobes those that seem to take, it seriously it hasn't even turned out as expected.

Anyway, thanks for all the things you report and translate.