Italian rapper Amir Issaa's new song "Ius Music" dives straight into the country's heated debate over immigration. And without missing a beat, conservative Italian politicians have accused the 35-year-old of inciting hatred.
The Lega Nord party has called for the resignation of Khalid Chaouki, a member of the Italian Democratic Party of Moroccan origin, who appears in the video.
In "Ius Music" (Right to Music), Amir — whose father is Egyptian and mother is Italian — plays the role of a teacher in a multicultural classroom. The school the video was filmed in is located in Rome's Torpignattara district, one of the capital’s densest areas of immigrants and their first and second-generation offspring. Like Amir, the pupils in the video were born in Italy to at least one foreign parent.
On the walls of the classroom you can see the traditional Christian cross, as well as the Star of David, a Taoist Taijitu, an Islamic Crescent and a Buddhist Dharmachakra. "Not only crucifixes in schools, we're tired of begging for rights," raps Amir.
Immigration has become a major focus in his music: "It's not just a legal problem; there are many guys like me who have citizenship but are not yet recognized as ‘real’ Italians. As long as people do not understand that Italians physically no longer look like they did 50 years ago, it will remain an uphill climb," Italian daily Redattore Sociale quotes Amir as saying. "I am lucky to have citizenship because my mother is Italian, but I want to fight for all my friends who still struggle to access this basic rights."
Parliament member Chaouki's cameo in "Ius Music" as the strict headmaster of the school has led Lega Nord to ask for his immediate resignation, saying he is "unworthy of representing the institutions of the country," according to Rome daily La Repubblica.
Chaouki replied that "rap is not a music genre that is understood by the Lega. Once again, they are manipulating words to express their aversion towards immigrants."
The Lega has long been accused of xenophobia as Italy has become a destination over the past two decades for immigrants, notably those who risk their lives to arrive on the small southern island of Lampedusa.
Meanwhile, members of the Forza Italia party, including outspoken Maurizio Gasparri, have asked for an investigation into the matter. On his blog, Amir responded: "Accusing me of instigating hatred through a song is absurd. Italy is the country I love, it is where I was born and raised, with my family."