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.
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