Despite later denials, the Italian premier meant it when he said that the west is superior to Islam. And the left, argues John Lloyd, implicitly holds similar views
Silvio Berlusconi said the "s" word. He has denied it, but the issue seems to be in little doubt. The Italian prime minister said, in a speech in Berlin just over a week ago, that "we should be confident of the superiority of our civilisation", because its guarantee of human and civil rights "does not exist in Islamic countries".
His fellow European leaders, almost all centre-left, did a mix of Schadenfreude and damage limitation over the weekend. Romano Prodi, the European Commission president, told George Bush in Washington that Europe knows how to "distinguish terrorism from the religious and civil aspects" of Islam. Gerhard Schroder, the German chancellor, gave an interview to the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung with the express intention of saying that Berlusconi's remarks were "out of place". Chris Patten, the European Union's foreign affairs commissioner and a man occupying the same centre-right space that Berlusconi claims, said "the west must show more humility: it's certainly not the Islamic world which is to blame for the holocaust".
As more evidence emerges, it becomes clearer that it was no careless phrase. A number …