The ongoing sexual excesses of Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi routinely make headlines. In fact, the tabloid fodder that is his life has been somewhat of a release for me in a time of heavy news (Egypt and Tunisia, anyone?). Orgies with showgirls, presents for nubile barely legal girls who are “just friends,” and assorted sex parties (Bunga Bunga ring a bell?) are just par for the course for Italy’s leader.
But recently, a new scandal has come to the surface for Il Cavaliere. The press calls it “Rubygate,” and it has become such a problem from Berlusconi that on the 27th, he called a television show live to defend himself against these accusations.
A young girl of Moroccan origin, Ruby Rubacuori, real name Karima el Mahroug (some sources say Karima Keyek), is accused of having paid sexual relations with Berlusconi, and, to make matters worse, he may have abused of his position to protect her from prosecution in a theft case last May. Oh, and she was a minor at the time. Even better: although her immigration status is unknown (she may or may not have papers), to get her out of custody, Berlusconi told police that she was Hosni Mubarak’s granddaughter.
As I love to find any link, no matter how tenuous, between people who are “potential Muslims” (like Ruby) and whether or not they are perceived as such by the media and people online, I asked myself the question: Is Ruby seen as a Muslim? Part of the answer is that Ruby, to the press, no longer identifies as Muslim, and is quoted by a few sources as having converted to Catholicism at the age of twelve, much to her “observant” father’s chagrin.
Furthermore, while French and Italian (and Switzerland for that matter) media delight in pointing out the “non-Europeanness” of certain protagonists, in this case they were accordingly quick to bring up Ruby’s Moroccanness, but not her potential Muslimness. And Berlusconi himself, who is not the most politically correct of characters, evidently had no problem with her “origins:” in fact, it seems he likes “belly dancers.”
However, as I have a long history of trolling online media and found the Muslim card being pulled by commenters in spades for my “No Uglies” post, I hypothesized commenters on news posts online would not give Ruby the benefit of the doubt, and sign her off as “once a Muslim, always a Muslim,” or at least try to amalgamate “Moroccan=Muslim.”
How did I fare? On main news outlets, the commenters were pretty tame. In the Economist, the Guardian, and the Huffy, I was pleasantly surprised to find no Muslim bingos, with much of the hate being heaped upon Berlusconi for being a homophobic pedophile. English-language media cited her real name, but made no real focus on her “Moroccanness” and none at all on her Muslimness.
I then moved on to French-language media. Would readers and trolls call Ruby a Muslim there?
Main Swiss papers. No dice. The comments in Liberation, the bastion of the French gauche caviar? A debate on the age of consent in Italy. Boring. Le Figaro, what your grandparents read? Other than every story focusing on the fact that she was a young Moroccan, the comments were full of internet high-fives for Berlusconi and supposed moral outrage at what children were being taught by their parents. Much to my disappointment, I even couldn’t find any good Muslim hating trolls even in Le Parisien which usually has some “Daily Mail”-like trolling action. Nothing!
Finally, in Italian (with my rusty college Italian). La Repubblica on the left? Nyet. Corriere della Serra on the right? Nope. Ansa (the Italian AFP?) Neither. The hate, like in English-language media, seemed to be focused on Berlusconi for crossing the lines yet again. In fact, my internet research only led me to shady YouTube videos.
Which lead me to a final conclusion: the only place I could find hate online for Ruby (seen in most other places as either an underage victim of the system or a really, really hot chick) was by Moroccans or Muslims. Two videos on Youtube with variations on “Ruby: Moroccan Whore” and a series of forum trolls, best summarized by this example from Ya Bliadi (which admittedly does not come out and say being either Moroccan or Muslim but, as I said, it is an example of dozens I read which did) left me speechless. Entitled “Yet Another Whore,” it went on to say: Each Moroccan whore who gets caught comes out and says,
“’I left Morocco because I aspired to freedom. The neighborhood grocer and 10 thirtysomething guys raped me when I was 4 years old.’ We must stop with this…Subhaan Allah, when I see that some Moroccan women are able to go out and make up stories to disown their country, their husbands or their parents for questions of papers or money, I tell myself that we are surrounded by vipers.”
What makes this latest sex scandal different for Il Cavaliere is not that he had yet another underage girlfriend, but that he abused of his position yet again to provide favors for his latest fling. In fact, the fallout from the Ruby scandal may just yet be his downfall. And what about Ruby? The readers’ consensus in three languages? Most definitely underage. Also hot. And Moroccan. But not Muslim. For once!