Friday, June 24, 2005

Tellin' It Like It Is, To The Very End

I've heard of Oriana Fallaci all of my life, unfortunately it was only a passing knowledge of her existence as a writer. A year or so ago, I read "The Rage and the Pride" and immediately I was a major admirer of her passion and common sense approach to the very real and immediate danger that Islamism in specific, and Islam in general, poses for western culture.

Alas, she is in her mid-70s and has been battling cancer for several years. I will mourn the day that her magnificent voice is stilled, but it is far from being so a the moment. She has written a new book entitled "The Force of Reason" which is a follow-up to "The Rage and the Pride." I look forward to reading it and not only for the obvious reasons. She is also under under idictment in Italy literally for villification of a religion. Here's an excerpt, but do read the whole thing:

NEW YORK--Oriana Fallaci faces jail. In her mid-70s, stricken with a cancer that, for the moment, permits only the consumption of liquids--so yes, we drank champagne in the course of a three-hour interview--one of the most renowned journalists of the modern era has been indicted by a judge in her native Italy under provisions of the Italian Penal Code which proscribe the "vilipendio," or "vilification," of "any religion admitted by the state."

In her case, the religion deemed vilified is Islam, and the vilification was perpetrated, apparently, in a book she wrote last year--and which has sold many more than a million copies all over Europe--called "The Force of Reason." Its astringent thesis is that the Old Continent is on the verge of becoming a dominion of Islam, and that the people of the West have surrendered themselves fecklessly to the "sons of Allah." So in a nutshell, Oriana Fallaci faces up to two years' imprisonment for her beliefs--which is one reason why she has chosen to stay put in New York. Let us give thanks for the First Amendment.

It is a shame, in so many ways, that "vilipend," the latinate word that is the pinpoint equivalent in English of the Italian offense in question, is scarcely ever used in the Anglo-American lexicon; for it captures beautifully the pomposity, as well as the anachronistic outlandishness, of the law in question. A "vilification," by contrast, sounds so sordid, so tabloid--hardly fitting for a grande dame.

"When I was given the news," Ms. Fallaci says of her recent indictment, "I laughed. Bitterly, of course, but I laughed. No amusement, no surprise, because the trial is nothing else but a demonstration that everything I've written is true." An activist judge in Bergamo, in northern Italy, took it upon himself to admit a complaint against Ms. Fallaci that even the local prosecutors would not touch. The complainant, one Adel Smith--who, despite his name, is Muslim, and an incendiary public provocateur to boot--has a history of anti-Fallaci crankiness, and is widely believed to be behind the publication of a pamphlet, "Islam Punishes Oriana Fallaci," which exhorts Muslims to "eliminate" her. (Ironically, Mr. Smith, too, faces the peculiar charge of vilipendio against religion--Roman Catholicism in his case--after he described the Catholic Church as "a criminal organization" on elevision. Two years ago, he made news in Italy by filing suit for the removal of crucifixes from the walls of all public-school classrooms, and also, allegedly, for flinging a crucifix out of the window of a hospital room where his mother was being treated. "My mother will not die in a room where there is a crucifix," he said, according to hospital officials.)

Ms. Fallaci speaks in a passionate growl: "Europe is no longer Europe, it is 'Eurabia,' a colony of Islam, where the Islamic invasion does not proceed only in a physical sense, but also in a mental and cultural sense. Servility to the invaders has poisoned democracy, with obvious consequences for the freedom of thought, and for the concept itself of liberty." Such words--"invaders," "invasion," "colony," "Eurabia"--are deeply, immensely, Politically Incorrect; and one is tempted to believe that it is her tone, her vocabulary, and not necessarily her substance or basic message, that has attracted the ire of the judge in Bergamo (and has made her so radioactive in the eyes of Europe's cultural elites).

And exactly which part of Oriana's theory is incorrect?

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