Saturday, June 03, 2006

Oriana Fallaci

When I was a girl, we had Oriana Fallaci's book "Interview with History" at home. I remember my father admired her courage, her intelligence and her antipathy for absolute power. I think I read parts of the book when I was about 14 and, after reading this fascinating profile by Margaret Talbot in The New Yorker, feel like doing so again.

Oriana Fallaci is not the first European writer that is critical about Islam and particularly about the way European nations and Western governments in general are handling the absorption, or rather lack thereof, of fundamentalist Muslims in their societies. Just last month I heard both Martin Amis and Ayaan Hirsi Ali, a woman who was born a Muslim, say intelligent, articulate and extremely critical things about Islam. I believe that American audiences were shocked at their bluntness, for we liberals are used to the language of all-appeasing political correctness. I also happen to agree with both Martin Amis and Hirsi Ali that the Western world is wrong about offering so much tolerance to the intolerant. I agree with them that it is a mistake to think of Muslim fundamentalists as sort of a crazy, tiny fringe group. It is true that most Muslims are sensible, law abiding, moderate people. But it is also true that Muslim countries encourage, and in some cases, finance fundamentalism, antisemitism and hateful anti-Western sentiment. It is also true that there is not one single Muslim country that is not an awful tyranny of some sort. Not one single Muslim country is a democracy. Martin Amis is right to be outraged at the inhumane treatment of women by fundamentalist Islam and he is right to be outraged at the West's turning a blind eye to it. He claims we are undone by our multicultural relativism, which seeks to please everybody without regard to whether two clashing sets of values can coexist in the same place.

The way I see it is, if you emigrate to a secular Western country, you have to abide by the laws of that country. That means that you cannot kill your sister because she looked at a man in the eye. If you don't like the laws of your host country you can move to Iran or Saudi Arabia (those wonderful allies of ours who finance terrorists and antisemitic textbooks and who we should actually be directing more of our wrath against). Then you can witness the stoning of adulterers and the chopping off of thieves' hands till you are sated. By the way, this little rule of thumb applies, not only to the Muslims but also to ultra-orthodox Jews and any other religious zealots. You don't like it here? Go live in a theocracy. Just don't try to impose it on us.

Oriana Fallaci, who is a woman full of rage, believes this too, but in contrast to Amis and Ali, she does not distinguish between the religion and the ruling elites that sponsor it, and the Muslim people, whom she talks about in sickening terms:

She contends that contemporary immigration from Muslim countries to Europe amounts to the same thing—invasion—only this time with “children and boats” instead of “troops and cannons.” And, as Fallaci sees it, the “art of invading and conquering and subjugating” is “the only art at which the sons of Allah have always excelled.
”The rhetoric of Fallaci’s trilogy is intentionally intemperate and frequently offensive: in the first volume, she writes that Muslims “breed like rats”; in the second, she writes that this statement was “a little brutal” but “indisputably accurate.” She ascribes behavior to bloodlines—Spain, she writes, has been overly acquiescent to Muslim immigrants because “too many Spaniards still have the Koran in the blood”—and her political views are often expressed in the language of disgust. Images of soiling recur in the books: at one point in “The Rage and the Pride” she complains about Somali Muslims leaving “yellow streaks of urine that profaned the millenary marbles of the Baptistery” in Florence. “Good Heavens!” she writes. “They really take long shots, these sons of Allah! How could they succeed in hitting so well that target protected by a balcony and more than two yards distant from their urinary apparatus?” Six pages later, she describes urine streaks in the Piazza San Marco, in Venice, and wonders if Muslim men will one day “shit in the Sistine Chapel.”
And this is where she and I part company. Because reading her virulent, hateful descriptions immediately brought to mind the way Nazis spoke about the Jews. All you have to do is substitute the word Jew or Black or Mexican or Gay in her invective and you feel sick in the gut. It is a shame that she goes all batshit, because she actually has some very good points to make about the issue.
The other thing that floored me about the article was this:

The magnificently rebellious Oriana Fallaci now cultivates, it seems, the prejudices of the petite bourgeoisie. She is opposed to abortion, unless she “were raped and made pregnant by a bin Laden or a Zarqawi.” She is fiercely opposed to gay marriage (“In the same way that the Muslims would like us all to become Muslims, they would like us all to become homosexuals”), and suspicious of immigration in general. The demonstrations by immigrants in the United States these past few months “disgust” her, especially when protesters displayed the Mexican flag. “I don’t love the Mexicans,” Fallaci said, invoking her nasty treatment at the hands of Mexican police in 1968. “If you hold a gun and say, ‘Choose who is worse between the Muslims and the Mexicans,’ I have a moment of hesitation. Then I choose the Muslims, because they have broken my balls.”
At an earlier point in the article mentions that when she was left for dead, after being hit repeatedly by a Mexican firing squad, she was dumped in a room with others and a young man tried to protect her, covering her with his sweater. The doctor who took the bullets out of her body whispered to her, urging her to write everything she saw. Still, she sees fit to hate all Mexicans, and to egregiously conflate the innocent people with their torturers. She's doing the same with the Muslims.

Fallaci was rightly admired for her outspokeness. And there is still something bracing about her lack of remorse. She's old and dying of cancer and doesn't give a rat's ass, and you want to say, good for you Oriana, feisty to the end. But nothing can conceal the fact that she thinks like an angry, shrill, provincial racist. How anti-fascist is that?

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