'I Married a Muslim': Italian Women Share Hashtag Against Prejudice and Islamophobia

Italian couple
A couple looks at each other as the sun sets over the Colosseum in Rome. Italian women have launched a hashtag to celebrate their Muslim husbands and fight Islamophobia. Filippo Montefiore/AFP/Getty Images

The hashtags launched by a woman celebrating her marriage to a Muslim man has gone viral in Italy, created in response to an article warning European women against such unions.

Journalist Laura Silvia Battaglia has been married for four years to her Yemeni husband who she met in his home country. She created the hashtags "I married a Muslim" and "Muslim husband rocks" to protest an article published after the third London attacker was identified as the son of an Italian woman and a Moroccan man.

Italian newspaper Libero led its front page on Wednesday with the headline "The Italian bastard" to refer to the attacker. Also on the front page, an op-ed titled "Dear European women, to marry an Islamic [man] is a dangerous folly."

The article discussed cases of violence against women and girls at the hands of men said to be Muslim who were also their husbands or fathers, and said that was evidence of the danger Islam represents for Western women.

The article ignored the numerous the cases of violence against women and girls in Italy committed regardless of the faith of the perpetrator _ the Italian news agency Ansa reported that there were 120 femicides in 2016 _ and framed gender-based violence as a religious issue.

Battaglia said she wanted to address the language of the article directly. "Nowadays [in Italy] the term 'Muslim' and/or the awful 'Islamic' are no longer used to refer to a religious community, but to a whole ethnicity, a 'race.' This is why we used the hashtag 'I married a Muslim,' even though the underlying concept is 'I married a person.'"

Battaglia wanted to increase visibility for the thousands of mixed unions that are successful. "Let them know we exist, that there are Muslim men who love us, who respect their wives, who educate their children and who never forced us to do anything," she tells Newsweek. "Let them know that love and respect exist, especially if you are good people, and if you focus on the human being above any other category."

Within a few hours of Battaglia posting a picture of herself with the caption "We have news: unfortunately for you, we're happy" on Twitter and Facebook, hundreds of women followed, sharing images of themselves, their families, and their stories.

Like one from Giada Frana, who met her Tunisian husband at university in 2009. "When I say that no, he does not beat me and no, he did not change when we were living in Tunisia for two years (I was moving around the country by myself, I wore what I liked, I went out with friend, sometimes people tell me 'yes, but he's different'. Different from whom?" she wrote as a caption to the post shared on Facebook.

Another woman shared the "I married a Muslim" hashtag and joked: "He got the short hand of the deal, with an Italian wife".

Battaglia says she was surprised by the number of responses. "I did not expect the campaign to become so viral and that many couples decided to bare their faces, together with their children. This sign is more than positive," she says.

Italy, traditionally a country of migrants, began to experience mass immigration from abroad relatively late compared to other European countries. The Catholic-majority country is still struggling with transforming into a multicultural community, as far-right and populist parties, particularly the Northern League, pursue aggressive anti-migrant platforms and language.

Battaglia claims mixed unions have been occurring for decades, but the phenomenon is not very visible within Italian society unless it is discussed in a negative frame. "If you love one another and you solve your issues, you don't need to go to court or hire lawyers. And there are no journalists who write about those who live in harmony because, as we know, good news is no news," she says.

As a mixed couple, Battaglia says they have encountered discrimination, although this is rarely explicitly stated. "We both have found people who would label us as 'the terrorist's wife' or 'the infidel's husband,' but we let it slide," she says. "Smiles and kindness are the best weapons. If they don't believe us, we invite them for dinner. If they turn us down, we wish them well."

There were negative reactions to her post. "We aren't encouraging anyone to marry a Muslim: I don't run a wedding agency," she says. "We are just saying that thousands of Muslim people are wonderful people and, simply, they exist. We found them and we're happy. Deal with it."

'I Married a Muslim': Italian Women Share Hashtag Against Prejudice and Islamophobia | World