When in Rome, one is supposed to do as the Romans do. Children know this, but the memo appears to have bypassed Iranian President Hassan Rouhani:
Mr Rouhani and Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi spoke at Rome’s Capitoline Museum after Italian firms signed business deals with Iran.
But several nudes there were hidden to avoid offending the Iranian president.
Italy also chose not to serve wine at official meals, a gesture France, where Mr Rouhani travels next, has refused to copy.
I’m not suggesting that Rouhani needed to put on a toga and spend those official meals reclining on a couch while being plied with grapes by nubile slave girls (or however Romans behave on such occasions these days – my impressions may be a little dated, now that Berlusconi has been out of office for a while), but to arrive in a foreign country and expect the local authorities to pander to one’s dour religious puritanism is a touch high-handed.
To be fair, I don’t know whether the wine and statues vanished from sight at the insistence of the Iranians or the cautious initiative of the Italians. Nevertheless, I find myself in full agreement with a politician who takes a dim view of the way Rouhani’s visit is being handled:
“Respect for other cultures cannot and must not mean negating our own,” said Luca Squeri, a lawmaker in Silvio Berlusconi’s centre-right Forza Italia party. “This isn’t respect, it’s cancelling out differences and it’s a kind of surrender.”
The Italians may feel that the prospect of doing some lucrative business with Iran, now that international sanctions are being lifted, is worth a few cultural compromises. However, it sounds like the French will be signing some serious contracts with the Iranian delegation too, while managing to keep le vin firmly sur la table.
If we Canadians are prepared to sell military vehicles to the Wahhabi monarchy in Saudi Arabia, as I think we should be for the sake of our economic well-being, we ought to be able to sell all kinds of things to the Shiite quasi-theocrats in Iran. Let’s get Rouhani to Ottawa as soon as possible – but if he insists that his god won’t let him share the dinner table with a nice bottle of Okanagan Merlot, he can surely find some halal grub on his own and then meet up with Trudeau the Younger to talk business afterwards.
Random thought having nothing to do with the rest of the post: Happy Australia Day! This momentous occasion marks the first time since 2015 that Australia Day has immediately followed Robert Burns Day.