The Italian Almanac

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KKK members having fun

Just What We Need

An Italian chapter of the American white supremacist group Ku Klux Klan (KKK) has launched a membership drive via internet. An Italian ''realm'' of the Michigan-based United Northern and Southern Knights of the KKK has posted ads on extremist web pages and blogs seeking ''good, Christian people ready to win back what we've lost''. Prospective members are instructed to send an application and scanned photo ID by email in order to receive a provisional one-year membership.

''We're looking for white patriots willing to defend our race and heritage, and take back what's been stolen from us,'' reads the appeal. An introductory note on the group's web page laments the ''sad and inexplicable lack of white pride'' among Italians and lists Christopher Columbus and Dante as examples of ''the fathers of white civilization''. The page includes a special section for ''proud Italian women united with our brothers to defend our children''.

The KKK made its Italian debut with a small group that quickly broke up. Former members put a new group together in 2008, which obtained recognition from the Northern and Southern Knights of the KKK, an organization with chapters in 27 of 50 American states.

The National Office Against Racial Discrimination said it had flagged the site for Rome prosecutors and would be keeping an eye on it. Equal Opportunity Minister Mara Carfagna called the group a ''dangerous farce, which would deserve to be ignored if it didn't incite violence against gays, blacks and people of other religions''. Carfagna urged ''authorites'' to investigate the group and ''block out its messages,'' which she feared could inflame smoldering racism in Italy.

The Ku Klux Klan was founded in the southern United States in the years following the Civil War to terrorize freed black slaves and entrepreneurs from the victorious north. The first groups were broken up within a few decades, all but disappearing by the turn of the 20th century to re-emerge in the 1920s, reaching over 4 million members around the US. Membership in the US has fallen steadily to an estimated 6,000 members in 2008 divided between dozens of groups scattered across the country.