A book report
I read a feature in Vanity Fair magazine a number of months ago on Oriana Fallaci, who had recently died. The article, which had praised Fallaci as a war correspondent and interviewer of controversial figures, inspired me to purchase her two post 9/11 books, The Rage and the Pride, published in English in 2002, and The Force of Reason, published in English in 2006. Fallaci herself was a controversial figure, and those two books were arguably her most controversial pieces of writing. I am going to focus on Fallaci’s message as delivered in The Rage and the Pride.
From the first page of the book’s preface, you are struck by two things about Fallaci: the first is her passion and the second is that she knows her stuff. She gets all of her facts right – whether from 19th century Italian history, the origin of the concept of zero or the events leading up to 9/11. Fallaci was a careful researcher and she believed strongly in her own observations and experiences. You cannot doubt Fallaci’s facts, you can only struggle against her interpretation of those facts if you do not – or merely do not want to – agree with her conclusions.
Fallaci, although Italian, had made her home in Manhattan for many years, and The Rage and the Pride was her reaction to the events of 9/11. Fallaci had originally written the treatise in the style of a letter to the editor for an Italian newspaper. The version that was published in the newspaper took up 4 ¼ newspaper pages although it had been severely edited. Fallaci stated that her aim in writing the treatise had been to “unplug the ears of the deaf and open the eyes of the blind”.
Fallaci had written an editorial 20 years earlier that she describes as “the scream of a Westerner full of indignation towards the idiots who did not smell the bad smell of a Holy War to come, and who tolerated the abuses that the sons of Allah were committing in Europe with their terrorism…” She goes on to quote herself as having said, “‘What logic is there in respecting those who do not respect us? What dignity is there in defending their culture or supposed culture when they show contempt for ours? I want to defend my culture, not theirs…’”
Fallaci’s belief is that Moslems want to subdue, or even destroy, our culture, and impose their own culture on us. She sees this as their fundamental aim, and goes on to claim that they have no interest at all in living in peace with us. Her statements at first struck me as being far too close in character to, for example, The Protocols of the Elders of Zion. How could someone think that an entire faith group might have a united goal, which is the conversion or destruction of everyone who is not like them?
On the other hand, you realise that the Spanish Inquisition did not require the agreement or consent of each individual Catholic subject of Ferdinand and Isabella. Nor did all of the communists in the Soviet Union support Stalin’s purges. And I am sure that you can think of enough similar events from history to represent all periods and all of the inhabited continents.
And then Fallaci assaults you with her facts and evidence and observations and her own experiences, and you will – even if you still don’t want to – find yourself beginning to wonder if she’s right.
There was a synod at the Vatican in October 1999, a meeting where Christians and Moslems discussed relationships between the two religions. There “an eminent Islam scholar” declared to an audience, “‘By means of your democracy we shall invade you, by means of our religion we shall dominate you.’”
Fallaci calls the invasion a “Reverse Crusade”.
Fallaci had travelled throughout the Moslem world. She had interviewed King Hussein, Yassir Arafat, the Ayatollah Khomeini and Ali Bhutto, amongst others. On her travels, she was often treated with contempt because she was a woman, and she saw horrible things. She wants you to get the picture of life in a Muslim country, but the stories aren’t new. You’ve heard about men being executed for being gay, boys having their hands chopped off because they stole some food, and women being stoned to death for the crime of having been raped, or being executed for having gone to a hairdresser.
All of this concerns you, Fallaci reminds you, because “freedom separated from justice is half a freedom.”
Fallaci then brings the Moslems west. She describes how they destroyed Beirut in 1982, in particular their desecration of churches and shrines of other religions. She describes an action in Florence, her hometown, in 1999. As a political protest, Moslems erected a tent on Cathedral Square and lived in it for 3 ½ months. Fallaci describes their behaviour, including how they would piss and shit on the church. She shows you that they were exhibiting not a mere lack of respect for her culture, but out-and-out contempt and disdain.
But people are afraid to react because if you criticise or object to their actions, you will be accused of being a racist. And everyone in Europe is afraid to be labelled a racist.
Fallaci wonders how so many Moslems get to Europe, and where they get the money. She wonders if they are being funded – sent over by “some Ousama Bin Ladin for the mere purpose of establishing the Reverse Crusade’s settlements and better organising Islamic terrorism.”
And she comes to the point that, basically, it is going to be us or them.
As I said in my opening paragraph, controversial. But The Rage and the Pride is a compelling read and it will make you rethink the issues of immigration, tolerance and acculturation.