Thursday, July 21, 2005

RADICAL WATCH: Oriana Fallaci, Italy's New Preacher of Hatred and Nationalist Xenophobia

This post is part of my occasional series, Radical Watch, which seeks to bring to the forefront individuals whom I consider to be radicals, regardless of their religion or ideology. I believe that these individuals need to be monitored and condemned by their potential constituency and society at large. For the record, I categorically condemn the views of every individual who appears in this series.

Call her Italy's version of shrill American ultra-loon conservative crow Ann Coulter; she's every bit as biting and melodramatic as Coulter. This Italian joins the ranks of Islamaphobes such as Robert Spencer. She's Oriana Fallaci (left), a 76-year-old, cancer-ridden anti-immigrant, anti-Muslim, biased journalist and firebrand. It's no secret that she hates all Muslims. Hates; not distrusts or dislikes and not just the radicals, she hates them all. She has bitterly attacked the "false" ideas of multicultural and Muslim moderation; as far as she's concerned no Muslim is moderate. She has bemoaned the growing Muslim communities in Western Europe, both indigenous and immigrant, dubbing Europe today, "Eurabia." Authoring three bitter, hate-filled books about her views, Fallaci was sued for the Italian equivalent of defamation in May, and is awaiting the start of her trial.

In a July 21 article that appeared in The Economist, it's noted that Fallaci's books have become bestsellers. At the heart of her hate speech, Fallaci's theses are quite simple: anything un-European or un-Western is evil, European culture is superior to all others, and attempts to live in harmony or toleration with other cultures in Europe and the West is a foolish, stupid endeavor. She is the heroine of European ultra-right political parties and social movements, such as Italy's Northern League, as well as many of Italy's most powerful politicians.

Her most influential book to date has been La Rabbia e l'Orgoglio (The Rage and the Pride), which was published shortly after September 11, 2001. In it, Fallaci regurgitates the "clash of civilizations" theory made infamous by Professor Samuel Huntington of Harvard University, although, unlike Huntington, Fallaci focuses solely on "Islam vs. Western civilization." Ignoring her own country's lengthy and troubled past (Genoa and Venice were powerful Crusader states during the Medieval period), Fallaci bitterly attacks Islam and all Muslims. The book has sold over 1.5 million copies to date.

Calling La Rabbia "a sermon," Fallaci wraps many of her arguments in religious language and metaphors: “The clash between us and them is not a military clash. Oh, no. It is a cultural one, a religious one." The conflict is nothing short of a new Crusade between Islam and Christianity. The problem with that is the fact that the vast majority of Europeans are thoroughly secular and atheist. A second problem with Fallaci's cry of wolf is the fact that if Islam was engaged in a war for supreme control of the world against Christianity, why are comparatively few Muslims actually participating? There are 1.3 billion+ Muslims in the world; if they were commanded to kill all Jews and Christians, why have comparatively few actually been killed? If the religion calls for it and if religion is such a strong, all-encompassing thing for all Muslims, why hasn't Fallaci's world war occured yet? The facts, simply stated, do not support Fallaci's views.

In her book The Force of Reason, Fallaci compares Islam to, "a pool that never purifies." She has also said that Islam by definition is a terrorist religion, a "reality that has existed for 1,400 years." Muslims can never be assimilated into European culture, Fallaci argues. While attacking Islam for being intolerant and supremacist, she essentially calls for a renewal of Italian nationalism and European supremacism over all other cultures. An ardent ultra-Zionist, Fallaci downplays the deaths of Palestinian civilians while attacking European media outlets and public figures for "playing down" Israeli deaths.

Even Daniel Pipes, the director of the Middle East Forum, a conservative American think tank, criticized Fallaci's book. He notes, "She does not pretend to be a specialist and this slim book makes that very clear."

He goes on, "Fallaci does not admire Islamic civilization, dismissing with a broad sweep of the hand as having left 'a few beautiful mosques but no contributions to the history of thought' and despising women so deeply that their deaths are of 'no importance' at all...She makes some rudimentary mistakes (twenty-four million Arab Muslims in the United States?). [The book is] like a number of other European attacks on Islam find a wide and receptive audience; really what they show is the primitive nature of the public debate about Islam in those countries."

To read Daniel Pipes' review, see:

Before Fallaci pontificates on what "Islam is," it would help if she were aware of the total picture of its intellectual and historical heritage from art, literature, music, poetry, historiography, medicine, mathematics, astronomy, anatomy; of the legacies of al-Andalus, Ibn al-Arabi, Jalal ad-Din Rumi, al-Ghazali, Averroes (who inspired St. Thomas Aquinas) and of the Muslim scholars who preserved the Ancient Greek, Roman, and Persian texts that would lead to the European Renaissance. She must be dismayed that the number system that entire world uses was invented by the Arab Muslims, who also worked out the ideas of decimal fractions, exponents, and other advanced forms of mathematics and the sciences. In summation, Fallaci's vision of "Islam" is essentialized, incomplete, and inaccurate. Her ignorance speaks volumes.

When even Pipes, a firebrand when it comes to railing against what he views as radical Islam (i.e. political Islam of any kind) is critical of your work, there is something seriously wrong with it. If even Pipes believes your work to be petty, poorly researched, and shallow, the game is over.

Of course, Fallaci has the right to express her views within the bounds of Italian law regarding free speech. Much like in the U.S., people are allowed to deliver hate speech, as long as it does not cross the boundaries and actively incite people to commit violence or break the law. However, there is a bit of hypocrisy in her diatribes, since she rails against the "intolerance" of all Muslims while peddling a brand of xenophobia and racism that is the epitome of extremist thought; in many ways, her speech differs little from that of Osama bin Laden. Perhaps Fallaci would do well to remember where modern fascism was born: Europe.

To read more about Fallaci's upcoming trial, see:

For a laudatory and slanted/biased biography and examination of Fallaci's work, see:

To read a recent article/interview with Fallaci, see:

To read a balanced critique of Fallaci's work by National Post writer George Jones, see:

To read Fallaci's op-ed, "I Stand with Israel: I Stand with the Jews," which was published on December 2, 2002 in the extremist American right-wing platform publication, FrontPage Magazine, see:

To read excerpts of the transcript from a speech Fallaci gave at the American Enterprise Institute, a right-wing organization, see:

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