Oct. 23, 2002 / 2:53 p.m. ET
The fierce beliefs of Oriana Fallaci: Now that best-selling French novelist Michel Houellebecq has been cleared of inciting racial hatred for saying Islam is “the stupidest religion,” I am reminded of Oriana Fallaci’s article on European anti-Semitism.
It is a singularly powerful indictment of Muslim-inspired violence that appeared last spring in Italy’s leading newspaper, Corriere della Sera, and was apparently overlooked by the Muslim organizations who sued Houellebecq.
“I find it shameful,” Fallaci begins, “that in Italy there should be a procession of individuals dressed as suicide bombers who spew vile abuse at Israel, hold up photographs of Israeli leaders on whose foreheads they have drawn the swastika, incite people to hate the Jews. And who, in order to see Jews once again in the extermination camps, in the gas chambers, in the ovens of Dachau and Mauthausen and Buchenwald and Bergen-Belsen et cetera, would sell their own mother to a harem.”
The entire article is essential reading.
“I find it shameful,” she continues, “that in France, the France of Liberty-Equality-Fraternity, they burn synagogues, terrorize Jews, profane their cemeteries. I find it shameful that the youth of Holland and Germany and Denmark flaunt the kaffiah just as Mussolini’s avant garde used to flaunt the club and the fascist badge. I find it shameful that in nearly all the universities of Europe Palestinian students sponsor and nurture anti-Semitism.”
Nobody, not even Houellbecq, states strong beliefs more forcefully than Fallaci (her writing drips with contempt for Yasser Arafat, whom she has interviewed at length); and few writers have shown as much courage when it comes to putting themselves on the line (you may recall that she faced down the Ayatollah Khomeni during an interview with him in his holy city of Qom). She makes Hemingway look like a piker.
Here’s a good summary of Fallaci’s career. And here’s her latest book, The Rage and the Pride, written in the aftermath of Sept. 11 and ending her decade-long silence. It sold a million copies in Italy, was a best-seller in France and is currently listed at No. 10 at amazon.com.
Despite the success of her book, Fallaci could never win a popularity contest in Europe — not given her fiery attack on Arafat, to say nothing of her disgust for the hidebound theocracies of the Arab world, and certainly not given her fierce defense of America.
“The truth is that America is a special place,” she writes. “A country to envy, to be jealous of, for reasons that have nothing to do with wealth et cetera. It’s special because it was born out of a need of the soul … and out of the most sublime idea that Man has ever conceived: the idea of liberty, or rather of liberty married to the idea of equality.”
Well, yes, the U S of A was born out of the sublime “idea of liberty,” but “liberty married to the idea of equality”? Not quite. Not these days. Not in those days either. Fallaci’s personal courage was unquestionable. For someone as sophisticated as she was, however, her idealized notion of the home of the brave and the land of the free was peculiar. You might say willfully myopic. And what about that controversial best seller The Rage and the Pride? It’s listed today on Amazon at No. 149,616. You can buy a used copy for as little as a penny. In case you’d like to listen to her reading her article about anti-Semitism in the original Italian, here she is with English subtitles.