Turin’s Egyptian Museum has introduced an exclusive two-for-one ticket offer for Arabic speakers, igniting a political debate in a country divided by opposing views on Europe’s migrant crisis.
The new promotion is part of a Museum campaign called “Lucky Arabic speaker,” and is displayed on buses throughout the city as well as on the subway.
The text of the promotion, which is written in Arabic script without an accompanying Italian translation and features a smiling Middle Eastern man with his veiled wife, reads as follows:
“It’s time to discover the wonders of the Egyptian museum, and now two can get in with a single full-fare ticket. We are waiting for you. The promotion is reserved for Arabic-speaking visitors. Just show a document. Exclusively for you 2 x 1: two tickets for the price of one.”
The campaign targets Turin’s Arab community, which is estimated at some 50,000 members.
According to the Museum’s director, Christian Greco, the promotion is not a “commercial” venture, but has an eminently cultural value by embodying a new form of “social inclusion.” In a city that has the fortune to house a very important collection, one “cannot forget the country from which it comes,” he said.
Conservative politicians were quick to denounce the campaign, beginning with the leader of the Fratelli d’Italia party, Giorgia Meloni, who called the promotion “absurd.”
Writing on Facebook, Meloni said: “This is an absurd promotion: pay one ticket and get two if you have an Arab identity card.”
Meloni further reminded readers that Turin’s Egyptian museum “takes public subsidies” and “is financed with Italian money.” She also criticized the depiction of a woman in a Muslim veil as well as the lack of an Italian translation of the advertisement.
“We ask that this aberration be removed immediately,” Meloni said, while also launching a political message with a view to the upcoming national elections. “If you want a government of patriots, do not vote for those who censor the Italian language, who put a veil on women and who use public money for these senseless initiatives.”
Similarly, the leader of “the League” (formerly the Northern League), Matteo Salvini, called the new promotion “Racism against the Italians.”
“Discount tickets only for Arab visitors, are we crazy?” Salvini wrote on Facebook. “Someone must apologize and resign. Obviously newspapers and TV news will conceal this.”
Responding to criticisms, the Egyptian museum said that the campaign did not constitute discrimination. “We also do campaigns in English on media addressed to the Anglo-Saxon world and have openings at discounted prices on some days for everyone,” a museum spokesperson said.
The museum also said it had chosen a veiled woman for its advertising because it is “more recognizable and symbolic.”
Follow Thomas D. Williams on TwitterFollow @tdwilliamsrome