The Rage and the Pride

oriana fallaci

La Fallaci


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.


12 Responses to The Rage and the Pride

  1. aunt cookie says:

    Wow! Often when I read your commentary I feel that i have been given a shot of truth serum or the steroids they put in chemo mix. My eyes open and I say to myself
    ” I trust Max – her perceptions are honest” – I am also stunned by the subject matter-
    did Max really say “buy guns to protect yourself – who better?”
    this presentation of La Fallaci’s article – a woman I had never heard of – unleashed many subterranean thoughts i had- for further scrutiny. Do i believe her – yes – but I believe also that like a bad marriage or other relationship – you dislike the perpetrator for leading you to be a person you never wanted to become. I don’t want to lose my “Shirley Temple /Anne Frank perceptions that people are really good at heart.” In the case of the terrorists – am I to blame them for becoming racist? I need to give this further contemplation.

  2. Same Old A-Hole says:

    Unwritten in all of this, though hinted at when the one woman insists it’s about “tradition and culture, not religion,” is the fact that many of these women do this out of fear for their life. Honor killings are not rare in that “tradition and culture, not religion.” I’m not sure what’s worse, though, the expectation that the bride is a virgin or the need of the “culture” to see blood upon consummation. Having your vagina sewn shut surgically is probably the lesser of two evils (your brother or father killing you upon learning that you weren’t a virgin upon consummation being the other). The article suggests that these are mainstream women, in many cases not even religious. If this is part of the mainstream, what is at the extremes? (It’s a rhetorical question, obviously, because the clear answer is “female circumcision.”) Nice “culture.”

    It’s not just Islam as a religion, it’s the Muslim culture too, mainstream or otherwise. Of course, Muslim culture is very hard to distinguish from Islamic religion, given that they are generally a manifestation of the dictatorships and sheikdoms from which they derive.

  3. salahudin says:

    i’m an apostate of islam… so allow me to objectively tell you the truth: she’s wrong. muslims don’t generally have that point of view.. and i’m talking about years of experience having lived with muslims AS a muslim…

    so who would be more credible? a fascistic woman or someone with more first hand experience than her? (plus, having left islam, i’m not biased for it!)

    and the nail in the coffin is that i have data that corroborates and justifies what i just said:

  4. Same Old A-Hole says:

    I think calling Fallaci “fascistic” is ironically funny.

  5. Max says:

    As a woman, I have to say that conservative Islam is offensive. However, I would say the same about most world religions. Women are not valued in religion, and are not valued in many cultures. I, for one, don’t see myself as a baby-making machine that happens to be able to also cook and clean. Fuck that. And I don’t respect a culture that treats its women as such.

    As for the survey results on your site, Salahudin, very interesting, but as I commented over there – incomplete. Again, where are the questions about attacks on Israeli or Jewish civilians? And, more importantly, the only acceptable answer to the question of whether suicide attacks or other attacks on civilians are ever justified is “absolutely never”. I understand the anger aimed at my government, because I’m pretty fucking angry too, but killing innocents is never an answer. I think that’s a pretty simple precept and everyone ought to be able to get it. What the fuck is wrong with those people?

  6. salahudin says:

    “Again, where are the questions about attacks on Israeli or Jewish civilians? ”

    is that supposed to be… some sort of way to discredit the polls…? if so, then that would be erroneous, if only because those polls were conducted by american think tanks and the university of maryland etc.

    ask them why they didn’t include those polls. but that doesn’t mean what they DID poll was “wrong”, correct?

    furthermore i offer you my own personal experience: majority of muslims want to just live their lives with others in peace.

    i can understand how the media only gives one side of the story though. for example, you’ll never see the following mentioned by the FASCISTIC FALLACI:

    I agree with you that conservative Islam is indeed antagonistic to the very ideals of western thought. But let’s not allow us to be misinformed and hence paint “muslims” by and large as “opposed” to our way of life, because they are not.

    the conservatives you speak of are from all across the islamic world but they have their names… for example in christianity you have the pentecostal nut jobs, the southern baptists, jehovas’ witnesses etc, in the same way in the islamic world you have the wahhabis, the conservatice ahmadis, etc.

    on the flip side as there are pacifist buddhists, the muslim equivalent are the sufis.

    not surprisingly the conservative sects have unilaterally (historically) declared sufis to be “heretical”, just like catholics have done protestants.

    but if people like fallaci are going to create the image of muslims using only the conservative side, then that will have the unfortunate consequence of radicalizing even the moderate sects because they will justifiably face a fascistic threat to THEIR way of life.

    so all i’m saying is that let’s try to analyze the muslim world and filter out the parts that actually DO foment terrorism etc. it’s just not pragmatic to attack “islam” on the whole as “terrorist” because that will gain us enemies where there aren’t any.

  7. salahudin says:

    “I think calling Fallaci “fascistic” is ironically funny.”

    i’m glad you and i share a similar sense of irony, if not for the same thing: i find it ironic that fallaci’s broadly painting muslims as “fascistic”.


  8. Max says:

    Salahudin – I don’t disagree with you. And I did not blame Muslims for the missing survey questions. I *hate* all religious fundamentalists – Muslim, Christian, Jewish, whatever. Fundamentalism, which to me means, “I am right, and if you don’t agree with me then you don’t deserve to live,” is the world’s greatest evil. The worst perpetrator in history is probably the Catholic Church. I have Catholic friends, I have Muslim friends, and I am a Jewish atheist – of course, most people of any background or faith (depending on how they like to view it) are moderate and don’t give a shit whether other people believe or don’t believe in the same god or a different god or no god. It’s all about live and let live. The people that cause the problems in the world, no matter who you or I think they are, are those that can’t stand people who are different from them. There are Jews that hate me because I am not Jewish enough, there are Muslims that hate me because I am too Jewish and there are white supremacists that hate me without knowing anything about me, except the fact that my skin tone is too beautiful to be perfectly aryan.

    It’s all bullshit. Max’s view: live and let live, and don’t interfere with anyone else. And definitely don’t commit any sort of violence EVER, unless it is in real self defence.

    Fallaci, by the way, fought against the fascists in Italy in WWII when she was still a child. Calling her a fascist is not ironically funny, it is merely disrespectful.

  9. salahudin says:

    Good for her that she fought fascists, although that is no way a guarantee that one no longer runs the risk of becoming a fascist themself.

    In any case, I’ll still know she is wrong, even if i retract my accusation of her.

    And as for disliking religions: I’m totally with you on that

  10. Same Old A-Hole says:

    Salahudin, Fallaci does nothing in the present tense.

  11. andhru82 says:

    It will be interesting book I think.
    For the religions: I think it’s important to believe in god

  12. Max says:

    Andhru, you don’t need someone else’s idea of religion in order to believe in a god.
    Personally, I don’t think that belief in a god is important. It is belief in oneself that is truly important.

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