After spending most of the last century fighting against fascism, Oriana Fallaci continues to demonstrate the enduring grip of Orwellianism: she is to be tried in Italy for thought-crime. For spending her childhood fighting Hitler and Mussolini, and for dedicating the last four years of her life to rousing the West to the danger posed by Islamofascism, she more than merits designation as FrontPage Magazine’s Woman of the Year.
Oriana Fallaci has rebelled against fascism most of her life. She is not an ideologue, bound to implement any given ideology. Hers is a defensive mission. She is, by her own designation, neither a conservative nor a leftist, finding defects with both. Like FrontPage Magazine, her main concern is fighting encroaching totalitarianism, not advancing a narrow partisan agenda ruled by either orthodoxy.
This is, in fact, her second honor from FrontPage Magazine. David Horowitz bestowed the Center for the Study of Popular Culture’s prestigious Annie Taylor Award upon Oriana in a special ceremony in New York last month. In his speech, he called the Italian firebrand author and journalist “a warrior in the cause of human freedom.”
How right he was.
Oriana commenced her lifelong insurrection against totalitarianism early, fighting the Axis powers as part of the Resistance. For her actions, the fascists tortured her father, who defiantly refused to collaborate. The lesson stuck. Oriana smuggled weapons to anti-Hitler forces within Germany. After Mussolini received his just deserts, she became a journalist, acting as a war correspondent in Vietnam. In the following decades, she would earn a reputation as one of the world’s most probing interviewers.
Over her career, she met with the world’s leading figures — for good or ill — interviewing everyone from Kissinger to Qaddafi. She examined a rage-filled Yasser Arafat, who revealed to her that he liked little boys. She sat down with the Shah and the Ayatollah Khomeini (separately, of course) — the latter so infuriating her that during one of his rants, she ripped off the headscarf she was forced to wear in his presence. After making an international impact in her chosen field, she retreated into semi-retirement.
Then after a lengthy hiatus, Oriana Fallaci found herself lured from a self-imposed exile by the clarion call of 9/11.
She spoke and wrote forcefully about the peril a free, pluralistic, democratic, and secular society faced at the hands of an Islamic jihad. She condemned terrorism everywhere and called out the Euro-leftists who marched in solidarity with Palestinian terrorists — including some elements of the Vatican. Straining against the vivid memories of a war correspondent and every inclination of her heart, she supported the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, writing of her anguish:
I hate [war] as the pacifists in bad or good faith never will. I loathe it. Every book I have written overflows with that loathing, and I cannot bear the sight of guns”¦When peace stands for surrender, fear, loss of dignity and freedom, it is no longer peace. It’s suicide.
It was in this period that she committed her unpardonable sin: she published “the trilogy” of books examining the threat of jihad in detail: The Rage and the Pride, The Force of Reason, and The Apocalypse.
The cancer-stricken 75-year-old woman was promptly demonized by the Islamic world, by the European Left, and even demonized as a racist by Newsweek.
Her crime? She exposed the threat of Islamic jihad — from without and within. Europe, she wrote, is becoming “an Islamic province, an Islamic colony.” Describing increasingly Muslim Europe, she wrote, “In each of our cities lies a second city: a Muslim city, a city run by the Quran.” When Shari”a rules certain areas of Christendom’s ancient home continent, and French girls cannot go through certain Parisian neighborhoods without wearing a burqa without fear of being raped, few could argue with her insight.
She frankly says she is against Islam, not because she opposes religious freedom, but because she believes in it. As she has said, after 9/11, “they want to come impose it on me, on us.” She calls herself “a Catholic atheist,” and she realizes the world cannot survive half-secular and half-theocratic, anymore than it can survive half-slave and half-free.
Unlike Daniel Pipes, she has written that there is no moderate Islam, that radicalism is ingrained in the religion itself, but that does not mean there aren’t any moderate Muslims. However, she recognizes some Muslims have risen above (or ignored) a literal interpretation of the Koran, as adherents of Judaism and Christianity did before them. In this, she is echoing both Muslim apostates and Muslim fundamentalists, each of whom insist jihad is the truest expression of the religion of Mohammed, and those who shun that path are displaying infidelity to the Prophet. As with Salman Rushdie, a fatwa was soon issued for the septuagenarian.
Her frank truthfulness was also too much for the sensibilities of unfree Europe. In 2002, she faced charges in France that her book The Rage and the Pride promoted “racism,” the plaintiffs apparently unaware “Muslim” is not a racial designation. (Fallaci supported Operation Iraqi Freedom to give Arabs the gift of self-determination.)
Two years later, she learned she would face similar charges in her native Italy, over the same book. In April 2004, an Italian leftist judge allowed the Muslim-instigated lawsuit to go forward on the grounds that her works were “without doubt offensive to Islam and to those who practice that religious faith.” However, FrontPage Magazine columnist Robert Spencer has examined the allegedly “offensive” passages that “defame Islam” — 18 in all — and found each one undeniably rooted in Islamic theology and history.
The plaintiff, Adel Smith, president of the Muslim Union of Italy, could as easily be charged by the loose anti-religious discrimination statute that has snared Fallaci. He calls on fellow believers in the Religion of Peace to “eliminate” and “die with Fallaci.” He also refers to Christianity as a “criminal association” and has demeaned the Crucifix as a “miniature cadaver.”
However, Europe is Europe, and now for refusing to live according to Shari”a law, a woman who helped free Italy from Il Duce is on trial for speaking her conscience about the next impending, Islamofascist threat.
Since the trial, she has taken refuge in Upper Manhattan, during what she openly anticipates will be the final year of her life, estranged from the people she loves and the land she helped free. Yet in her exile, she has rallied another democracy in danger of slouching into pre-9/11 complacency. She tells all the American anti-terror crowds she can that the media are collaborating with America’s enemies. America faces an implacable enemy out to impose an all-encompassing legal code upon the entire infidel world, and the media continue to portray the jihadists as poverty-stricken victims of Yankee imperialism, someone with whom to enter into a dialogue. This is blurring the West’s vision of the true nature of the enemy and obscuring the stakes if we fail.
The media, though, are not the all-important problem. Most importantly in her view, Americans have lost their passion for freedom. They have specifically lost The Rage and the Pride, the patriotism that comes from being a believer in liberty and the burning desire to protect our “Shining city upon a hill” at all costs. That’s what she’s trying to stir, and the world will be safer in 2006 if it catches spark from her flame.