enito Amilcare Andrea Mussolini was known for many things. Being the original creator of Fascism and Italy’s dictator for several years, the extremist leader left his impact upon the Italian people and the history books. Although his exploits and failures in the Second World are well-known, there is another less well-known side to the dictator that we will explore today. To do this, we will look at Mussolini’s life before the Second World War and how the Catholic leader became the Protector of Islam.
Upon Mussolini’s rise to power, the Kingdom of Italy held few colonies compared to its other rivals, such as Britain and France.
One of the few colonies Italy did control was known as Italian Libya, an area which is now mostly under the control of the modern Libyan state.
Although Italy faced unrest from the locals due to their wish for independence, by the early 1930s, Italy had more or less full control of the region.
In an effort to try to pacify the region, Mussolini realized that he must do something which would show him in a favorable light to the Muslim people he was ruling over.
To achieve this, even though Mussolini was a devout Christian, looked to take on a prestigious title within the Muslim faith to show the people he ruled that he was engaged with their faith.
‘The Protector of Islam‘
By owning Ottoman Libya, Mussolini declared that he inherited the authority of the Caliph. As such, this gave Mussolini the right to award himself the title of ‘The Protector of Islam. ‘ This title was further legitimized with his entitlement to the “Sword of Islam,” another honorific title given to him by Iusuf Keriscm, a Berber leader who was sympathetic to the Italian occupation of North Africa.
The ceremony in which Mussolini received the “Sword of Islam” did not go to plan. To further project his power and commitment over his Muslim subjects, Mussolini planned a photoshoot around him being bestowed this title. Many of the pictures from the event were unusable as they did not show the dictator in a good light. One of the only pictures which were shown to the public is the one seen above, which was heavily edited to omit one of Mussolini’s helpers holding his horse.
After the initial ceremony, Mussolini also paraded through the capital of Libya, Tripoli, to further enforce his status among the people he ruled over in North Africa.
During this parade, the Italian dictator confirmed to the people of Libya that he would maintain “peace, justice, wellness and respect for the laws of the Prophet.”
Once this show of power was finished, the sword was placed on display in Mussolini’s summer home, where it remained until 1943, when Italian resistance troops took over and pillaged his residence. Since then, the location of the sword has remained a mystery.