Back in the 1960s Oriana Fallaci was a "brave," leftist, feminist hackette. Her iconoclastic interviews were praised by the chattering classes for bringing the genre to the heights of postmodernism -- she was lauded for doing to journalism what Susan Sontag was doing to fiction. But whereas the latter progressed to become an apologist for jihad and died as a self-hating degenerate, Fallaci's old age brought her wisdom and true grit. She died on September 14 as an outstanding defender of our culture and civilization against the onslaught of barbarity from without and betrayal from within.
For some 20 years starting in the early 1960s Fallaci was famous for her political interviewers with the great and the mighty of that era, including Deng Xiaoping and Henry Kissinger, who later wrote that his 1972 interview with her was "the single most disastrous conversation I have ever had with any member of the press." On his own admission, he had been flattered into granting it by the company he'd be joining in Fallaci's "journalistic pantheon," but realized too late that it was more like a collection of scalps. Her manner of interviewing was deliberately unsettling: "she approached each encounter with studied aggressiveness, made frequent nods to European existentialism ... and displayed a sinuous, crafty intelligence."
Fallaci's once-famous reportage has not aged well, and on the strength of it alone her death would have attracted scant attention. But in the aftermath of 9/11 she became a fierce critic of jihadism and an outspoken opponent of Muslim immigration into Europe. Her book The Rage and the Pride -- a provocative extended essay initially published by Corriere della Sera -- caused a sensation. While countless bien-pensants and talking heads from her 1960s and 70s milieu were prompted by 9/11 to explain to the masses the peaceful and tolerant nature of "true Islam," Fallaci understood what was going on. It is certainly not rock and roll music that the jihadist hates, she wrote, not the usual stereotypes like chewing-gum, hamburgers, Broadway, or Hollywood. Accustomed as the Westerners are to the double-cross, blinded as they are by myopia, they'd better understand that a war of religion is in progress:
A war that they call Jihad. Holy War. A war that might not seek to conquer our territory, but that certainly seeks to conquer our souls. That seeks the disappearance of our freedom and our civilization. That seeks to annihilate our way of living and dying, our way of praying or not praying, our way of eating and drinking and dressing and entertaining and informing ourselves. You don't understand or don't want to understand that if we don't oppose them, if we don't defend ourselves, if we don't fight, the Jihad will win. And it will destroy the world that, for better or worse, we've managed to build, to change, to improve, to render a little more intelligent, that is to say, less bigoted -- or even not bigoted at all. And with that it will destroy our culture, our art, our science, our morals, our values, our pleasures.
Fallaci had no qualms when it came to the comparison of what we have with their culture, their art and their science, not to mention their morals, values, and pleasures. She despised the evaders of the truth about our two civilizations as weaklings, cowards or simple masochists:
It bothers me to even talk about "two of them," to put them on the same plane as though they were two parallel realities of equal weight and equal measure. Because behind our civilization we have Homer, Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, Phydias, for God's sake. We have ancient Greece with its Parthenon and its discovery of Democracy. We have ancient Rome with its greatness, its laws, its concept of Law. Its sculptures, its literature, its architecture. Its buildings, its amphitheaters, its aqueducts, its bridges and its roads. We have a revolutionary, that Christ who died on the cross, who taught us (too bad if we didn't learn it) the concept of love and of justice.
Yes, I know -- the old agnostic went on -- there's also a Church that gave me the Inquisition, the torture and the burning at the stake. But Fallaci, who was granted an audience with Pope Benedict XVI last year, readily recognized the contribution of Christianity to the history of European thought, "the inspiration it gave to Leonardo, Michelangelo, and Raphael, the music of Bach, Mozart, and Beethoven, to Rossini and Donizetti and Verdi, and to science that cures diseases, and has invented the train, the car, the airplane, the spaceships, and changed the face of this planet with electricity, the radio, the telephone."
She offered a resolute reply to "the fatal question" of what is behind the Muslim culture: "We can search and search and find only Mohammed with his Kuran and Averroe with his scholarly merits, his second-hand Commentaries on Aristotle" -- all quite worthy, but pretty second-rate stuff, really. Well, yes, numbers and math; but even on that, Fallaci pointed out, there's far less than meets the eye. Unlike the perpetrators of the myth of an Islamic Golden Age, she realized that the Muslim Empire merely inherited the knowledge and skills of the ancient Middle East, of Greece and of Persia, and added to them a few innovations.
The learning curve of Oriana Fallaci on the issue of Islam may be traced back to her famous October 1979 interview with Ayatollah Khomeini, soon after the fall of the Shah, when she took off her chador in the middle of the proceedings. His political and social views were hardly a revelation to her, but his passing comments on the music of the West shook her deeply. The old man declared dryly that it "dulls the mind, because it involves pleasure and ecstasy, similar to drugs," instead of exalting the spirit as it should. "Even the music of Bach, Beethoven, Verdi?" -- Fallaci asked, to which Khomeini curtly replied, "I do not know these names." He went on to allow for the possibility that if Western music does not dull the mind, it would not be prohibited: "Some of your music is permitted. For example, marches and hymns for marching ... Yes, your marches are permitted."
For once she was genuinely horrified. As she told the New Yorker earlier this year, "I am known for a life spent in the struggle for freedom, and freedom includes the freedom of religion. But the struggle for freedom does not include the submission to a religion which, like the Muslim religion, wants to annihilate other religions. Which wants to impose its Mein Kampf, its Koran, on the whole planet. Which has done so for one thousand and four hundred years. That is, since its birth. Which, unlike any other religion, slaughters and decapitates or enslaves all those who live differently."
As an astute analyst of world affairs in her mature years. Fallaci knew that the Islamic genie, released by the United States thanks to Dr. Zbigniew Brzezinski's "excellent idea" to support Usama bin Laden and his ilk in Afghanistan in 1979, came to haunt us all like a boomerang. She recalled the footage of mujahideen attacking Soviet positions:
Do you remember those bearded men with the gowns and the turbans who, before firing their mortars, shouted "Allah akbar! Allah akbar!" I remember them very well. I used to shiver hearing the word "Allah" coupled with the shot of a mortar ... Well, the Russians left Afghanistan ... and from Afghanistan the bearded men ... arrived in New York with the nineteen kamikaze.
But unlike her beloved New York, European cities would succumb, she feared, because of the Muslim demographic onslaught on the Old World, an invasion unparalleled in human history. This was a key theme of the best-selling sequel to The Rage and the Pride which was published last year, The Force of Reason was another frantic wake-up call. It made Fallaci the subject of several "hate-crime" lawsuits in her native country, where a court in Bergamo indicted her for 'defaming Islam.' In her final months, she was gripped by deep pessimism, lamenting the decline of Europe which refuses to confront the "reverse Crusade" by the "sons of Allah."
Europe is already "Eurabia," she declared last year, "a colony of Islam, where the Islamic invasion does not proceed only in a physical sense, but also in a mental and cultural sense." What actually occurred, she wrote four years earlier, "was not an immigration, it was more of an invasion conducted under an emblem of secrecy -- a secrecy that's disturbing because it's not meek and dolorous but arrogant and protected by the cynicism of politicians who close an eye or maybe even both." The tolerance level was already surpassed fifteen or twenty years ago, "when the Left let the Muslims disembark on our coasts by the thousands." Servility to the invaders has poisoned democracy, undermined the freedom of thought and the concept of liberty itself.
The tangible results are as devastating as the moral and spiritual ones. In Venice the invaders have taken over Piazza San Marco. In Genoa the marvelous palazzi that Rubens so admired "have been seized by them and are now perishing like beautiful women who have been raped." In her native Florence, a huge tent was put up next to the Cathedral to pressure the Italian government to give them "the papers necessary to rove about Europe" and to "let them bring the hordes of their relatives to Italy":
A tent situated next to the beautiful palazzo of the Archbishop on whose sidewalk they kept the shoes or sandals that are lined up outside the mosques in their countries. And along with the shoes or sandals, the empty bottles of water they'd used to wash their feet before praying. A tent placed in front of the cathedral with Brunelleschi's cupola and by the side of the Baptistery with Ghibertils golden doors ... Thanks to a tape player, the uncouth wailing of a muezzin punctually exhorted the faithful, deafened the infidels, and smothered the sound of the church bells ... And along with the yellow streaks of urine, the stench of the excrement that blocked the door of San Salvatore al Vescovo: that exquisite Romanesque church (year 1000) that stands at the rear of the Piazza del Duomo and that the sons of Allah transformed into a shithouse.
Of course she prompted countless howls of rage from coast to coast and from one side of the Atlantic to another, among the degenerates, cowards, masochists, madmen, and villains. (Christopher Hitchens, who is all of the above, has described Fallaci's work as "a sort of primer in how not to write about Islam.") They can relax now, and write mean-spirited obituaries of this "controversial author" who's been "harshly criticized" for "inciting hatred against Islam." She will be sorely missed by those of us who know what she knew, and who abhor what she abhorred.
Srdja Trifkovic is the foreign-affairs editor of Chronicles: A Magazine of American Culture and director of The Rockford Institute's Center for International Affairs.
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