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Sunday, 12 January, 2003, 20:37 GMT
Muslim activist assaulted on Italian TV
Italian right-wing youths
Right-wing youths burst into the studio during the broadcast
An outspoken Muslim activist has earned the dubious distinction of being physically attacked twice in the same week on live Italian TV.

Adel Smith, chairman of the Union of Italian Muslims, has sparked anger with his strongly anti-Christian and anti-Israel views.

Adel Smith
Muslim activist Adel Smith

On Friday, more than 20 members of a neo-Fascist group stormed into the studios of Telenuovo, a local Verona TV station, attacking Mr Smith and his associate Massimo Zucchi during a live chat show.

No-one in the studio appeared to do anything to prevent the assault.

Studio brawl

Mr Smith was roughed up and splattered with eggs, while Mr Zucchi suffered a broken cheekbone and a black eye.

At least six of the attackers were arrested, while the other 17 were identified by the police.

Injured man
Smith's associate Massimo Zucchi was hurt

Local authorities said they were appalled by the neo-fascist attack on Mr Smith.

Friday's attack followed a TV brawl last weekend between Mr Smith and Carlo Pelanda, a conservative columnist.

The punch-up was broadcast live on Padua's Teleserenissima, another local station in the mainly conservative and deeply Catholic north-eastern region of Veneto.

The fight between Mr Smith and Mr Pelanda started when the columnist slapped the Muslim leader during a heated debate on Israel.

Mainstream criticism

Other Italian Muslim leaders have distanced themselves from Mr Smith, who has reportedly disparaged the crucifix by describing it as "a little body hung on two pieces of wood".

Brawl in Italian TV studio
Last weekend's incident

Mr Smith claims that his critics are not so much upset by his views, as by the fact that a Muslim is expressing them.

Italy's mainstream umbrella group, the Union of Italian Muslim Organisations and Communities, released a statement last June saying that by making "offensive public statements against the Christian tradition," Adel Smith was "acting in stark contrast with the teaching of the Koran."

Mr Smith says his union represents more than 5,000 people and that he plans to turn it into a political party.

He has also declared his intention to run at the next European Elections.

BBC Monitoring, based in Caversham in southern England, selects and translates information from radio, television, press, news agencies and the Internet from 150 countries in more than 70 languages.

See also:

11 Oct 01 | Europe
28 Sep 01 | Europe
09 Aug 01 | Europe
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