(CNSNews.com) – Italian opposition politicians have lashed out at a decision to cover up classical statues ahead of a visit by Iranian President Hasan Rouhani to a world-famous Roman museum, for fear of offending his Muslim sensibilities.
Nude statues among the historical collections at the Capitoline Museums were hidden behind large white panels when Rouhani visited on Monday for a meeting with Prime Minister Matteo] Renzi. The museum said the prime minister’s office requested the cover-up.
Italian media also reported that no wine was served during an official dinner for Rouhani.
“The level of cultural subordination of Renzi and the left has exceeded all limits of decency,” declared right-wing politician Giorgia Meloni, who served as Youth Minister in a previous Silvio Berlusconi cabinet.
Writing on her Facebook account, she wondered what Italy could expect next – the covering of St. Peter’s Basilica “with a huge box” when the emir of Qatar visits next week?
Rouhani’s European tour, his first since the lifting of sanctions under the nuclear deal, promises to open up billions of dollars in business deals, including a major order for Airbus aircraft. At a ceremony held in the Capitoline Museums on Monday, Rouhani and Renzi oversaw the signing of contracts worth up to $18.3 billion.
“Renzi was clearly keen to avoid offending his new business partner,” the Italian news site The Local commented of the statue cover-up.
A lawmaker in Berlusconi’s Forza Italia party, Luca Squeri, described the concealing of the historical statues as “a sign of excessive zeal.”
“Respect for other cultures cannot and must not equal the negation of ours. This is not respect, it is the cancellation of differences or, worse still, submission,” the ANSA news agency quoted him as saying.
Another conservative opposition politician, Northern League leader Matteo Salvini said in a Facebook posting that covering up the statues was “crazy.”
Salvini also slammed Renzi for welcoming a man who, he said, “would like to wipe Israel from the face of the Earth.”
A Rome city councilor, Gianluca Peciola, began an online petition demanding that Renzi explain the statue cover-up decision, which he called “a disgrace and a humiliation” and said it had “compromised the principles of the secular state and national sovereignty.”
Ahead of a planned visit to Paris last November, French media reported a diplomatic spat over the Iranians’ demand for an alcohol-free, halal meal to be served at an official dinner at the presidential palace.
The reports said France refused to violate its “republican traditions” and in a face-saving gesture offered an official breakfast instead. Iran reportedly declined the offer as “too cheap” and it appeared there would be no official meal during the visit.
In the end the trip, scheduled for Nov. 17, was canceled after terrorists attacked Paris four days earlier.
Rouhani, accompanied by a large delegation of ministers and businessmen, will now visit France on Wednesday, after wrapping up his time in Italy which included a private meeting at the Vatican Tuesday with Pope Francis.