Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Indian Immigrant Set on Fire in Italy

This past Sunday a 35-year-old Indian immigrant was beaten and set on fire after falling asleep on a train station bench outside of Rome. Three young men believed to be responsible for this brutal crime were arrested on Monday.

Some believe that this was not an arbitrary act of violence. It may very well highlight attitudes towards immigrants in Italian society. In recent years, many Italian citizens have developed negative attitudes towards immigrants due to the rising number of immigrant arrests for high profile crimes (for example, the murder of an Italian admiral’s wife in Rome).

Italian President Giorgio Napolitano seems to be taking the right approach. He has issued a statement warning against “any display and risk of xenophobia, racism and violence.”

However, the words of Carabinieri Major Emanuele Gaeta are appalling. After investigators revealed that the attackers were suspected of having been under the influence of alcohol and drugs, he stated, “We can exclude racism as a motive because they were so high.”

This 35-year-old Indian immigrant was beaten and then set on fire. He narrowly escaped death and currently suffers from burns on 40% of his body. This crime against him could have vast implications for the safety of other immigrants living in Italy, and the possibility of this danger should not be masked. This crime should not be dismissed as an arbitrary act of violence. The fact that the attackers were abusing drugs does not eliminate the possibility that race and nationality may have been a motivating factor in the crime. Should drug use really encourage us to overlook the fact that this may have been a hate crime? Should it automatically exempt these men from facing the repercussions of such a crime?