“We are gathered here tonight,” announced David Horowitz, “to honor a warrior in the cause of human freedom.”
Oriana Fallaci, who received the Center for the Study of Popular Culture’s Annie Taylor Award in New York Monday evening, has been a warrior for human freedom ever since she joined the anti-fascist resistance in 1944, at age fourteen. For over six decades, she has fought against those she has labeled “the bastards who decide our lives,” opposing all forms of tyranny and oppression, from Mussolini and Hitler to Osama bin Laden and Abu Musab Al-Zarqawi. She amassed a fearsome reputation as an interviewer, recounting of Ariel Sharon: “‘I know you’ve come to add another scalp to your necklace,’ he murmured almost with sadness when I went to interview him in 1982.” Other scalps on her necklace include that of Henry Kissinger, who termed his interview with Fallaci “the most disastrous conversation I ever had with any member of the press.” While interviewing the Ayatollah Khomeini, Fallaci called him a “tyrant” and tore off the chador she had had to wear in order to be admitted to his presence. According to Daniel Pipes in his introduction of Fallaci Monday night, she is also apparently one of the few who ever made the irascible old man laugh.
Today, at seventy-five years old, Fallaci still stands for freedom. She is suffering from cancer. She stated with her usual directness at the Taylor Awards ceremony: “I shall not last long.” But she has dedicated the four years since 9/11 to trying to awaken her native Italy, Europe and the world to the magnitude global jihad threat, which most analysts continue, whether from willful blindness, ignorance, or a misplaced strategic imperative, to misapprehend. Pipes noted that “she has her differences with the President. When he says that Islam a ‘religion of peace,’ she has said, ‘each time he says it on TV? I’m there alone, and I watch it and say, “Shut up! Shut up, Bush!” But he doesn’t listen to me.’”
And it isn’t, of course, just Bush. Fallaci spoke fervently Monday evening about how Western nations are selling their own homelands and culture to their mortal enemies. “We seem to live in real democracies,” she said, “but we really live in weak democracies ruled by despotism and fear.” Western elites – government and media – are paralyzed by fear, afraid to speak out against the life-destroying aspects of the Sharia law that Islamic jihadists want to impose on the rest of the world. The risk of offending Muslims is, in their calculus, apparently greater than the risk of national or civilizational suicide. Alexis de Tocqueville, according to Fallaci, explained that in dictatorial regimes, despotism strikes the body: the dissenter is tortured into silence. But in democratic regimes that have succumbed to corruption, despotism ignores the body and strikes at the soul. One is not tortured for dissent; instead, one is discredited for it. To affirm the patent fact that Islam is not a religion of peace today renders one “unelectable,” or “bigoted,” or beyond the bounds of what is fit to print. In despotic democratic regimes, Fallaci observed, everything can be spread except truth.
That is indeed the present-day situation. Most of the liberal and conservative mainstream not only will not feature trenchant criticisms like Fallaci’s of the violent and supremacist impulse within Islam; they will not even discuss them. Those who, like Fallaci, speak the truth about the motives and goals of the jihadists are vilified and marginalized, while the purveyors of comforting half-truths, distortions and lies fill the nation’s airwaves and newsprint. Fallaci herself faces the most frivolous of frivolous lawsuits in Italy for defamation of Islam; a Muslim group tried to have banned her searing, passionate response to 9/11, The Rage and the Pride.
Why does all this happen? In her speech Fallaci explained that it was to a great degree because “truth inspires fear.” When one hears the truth, one can only be silent or join the cause. It is a call to a personal revolution, an upheaval, a departure – perhaps forever – from a life of ease and comfort. So most will prefer not to hear the truth -- in no small part because of the difficulty of living up to it. Yet the real heroes, she said, are “those who raise their voices against anathemas and persecution,” while most succumb -- “and with their silence give their approval to the civil death of those who spoke out.”
“This,” Fallaci declared, “is what I have experienced the last four years.” She described how, since 9/11, the whole of Europe has become a “Niagara Falls of McCarthyism” – with the new Grand Inquisitors of the Left persecuting and victimizing all others. “In Europe, we too have our Ward Churchills, our Noam Chomskys, our Michael Moores, our Lewis Farrakhans.” And they are doing immense damage to the unity, will and cultural identity of the people. In Europe as in America, the new thought police ban Christmas observances to avoid offending Muslims; history is rewritten to depict Islam as having built a civilization of peace and mercy (regardless of the preponderance of evidence to the contrary), while Europe’s own Judeo-Christian civilization is regarded as “a spark of a cigarette – gone.” A spent force. In Leftist-controlled municipalities, police stand idly by while Muslim hooligans demonstrate their contempt for European society and culture by urinating upon and otherwise desecrating churches. Fallaci: “This is considered ‘freedom of expression’ – unless the offense is committed against Muslims.”
Meanwhile, the “religion of peace” myth and other falsehoods that interfere with our ability to defend ourselves are propagated aggressively by elected officials, the media, the Hollywood elite, and the justice system. Defenders of freedom are stripped of credibility and denied the means to get their message across. Or if they do get it across, they are not believed. “I really feel as a Cassandra,” said Fallaci, “or as one of the forgotten anti-fascists.” Yet she wears the Left’s attacks with defiant pride. “Since I wrote the trilogy (La Rabbia e l’Orgoglio (The Rage and the Pride), La Forza della Ragione (The Force of Reason), and L’Apocalisse (The Apocalypse), my real medals are the insults I get from the new McCarthyists.”
Fallaci told the audience that she faced three years in prison in Italy if convicted in her trial for hate speech. “But can hate be prosecuted by law? It is a sentiment. It is a natural part of life. Like love, it cannot be proscribed by a legal code. It can be judged, but only on the basis of ethics and morality. If I have the right to love, then I have the right to hate also.”
Hate? “Yes, I do hate the bin Ladens and the Zarqawis. I do hate the bastards who burn churches in Europe. I hate the Chomskys and Moores and Farrakhans who sell us to the enemy. I hate them as I used to hate Mussolini and Hitler. For the cause of freedom, this is my sacrosanct right.”
What’s more, Fallaci pointed out that Europe’s hate speech laws never seem to be used against the “professional haters, who hate me much more than I hate them”: the Muslims who hate as part of their ideology. While Fallaci faces three years in prison in Italy, “any Muslim can unhook a crucifix from a wall in a school or hospital and throw it into the garbage,” with little fear of consequences. Also unprosecuted, she said, were those responsible for a vile little publication entitled Islam Punishes Oriana Fallaci, which urges Muslims to kill her, invoking five Qur’anic passages about “perverse women.” In Italy Fallaci must be guarded around the clock; but no effort has been made to bring those who threatened her to justice.
Yet for all the isolation and the verbal abuse to which her enemies have subjected her, Fallaci remains indomitable – and has found an unlikely ally in Pope Benedict XVI, whom she warmly praised Monday night. Fallaci, who identified herself as an atheist (a “Catholic atheist”), was the first individual granted a private audience with the new Pope. She stated that the Islamic challenge had opened up a void in the West that only spirituality could fill – “unless the Church also misses its appointment with history. But I don’t think it will.”
Despite these warm words for the Pope and the ancient institution he heads, however, Fallaci announced that at the risk of disappointing many of her hearers, “I am not a conservative. I don’t sympathize with the Right more than I do with the Left. I cannot b associated with the Right or with the Left.” Why not? Because, she said, both Right and Left have been guilty of the “abuse of democracy, demagogic egalitarianism, denial of merit, tyranny of the majority, and lack of self-discipline” that are sapping the strength of Europe today. “Europe’s Islamic invasion has been backed by the Left, yes. But it would never have reached the point it has if the Right had not been complicit.”
Another indication of that complicity was, according to Fallaci, the American Right’s support for the entry of Turkey into the European Union – which both Fallaci and her friend in the Vatican oppose. “European citizens do not want Turkey in our home. Condoleeza Rice should stop exercising realpolitik at our expense.” And in America, she asked why the Right was so complacent before Leftist outrages such as the ongoing war against Christmas, the removal of the Ten Commandments monument from the Alabama courthouse, the amending of the noise ordinance to allow for the Muslim call to prayer over loudspeakers (but not church bells) in Hamtramck, Michigan, and others. Why, she asked, was Ward Churchill not fired for calling the 9/11 victims “Little Eichmanns,” while Michael Graham was fired for suggesting that Islam might have something to do with present-day terrorism?
This, Fallaci concluded, is the war we are really fighting. “I do not see Islamic terrorism as the main weapon of the war that the sons of Allah have unleashed upon us. It is the bloodiest, but not the most pernicious or catastrophic aspect of this war.” Far more dangerous to the West in the long run is unrestricted Muslim immigration, which already has brought at least 25 million Muslims to Europe (not counting, Fallaci said, the huge numbers of illegal aliens). That number will double by 2016 and, as Bernard Lewis and others have predicted, almost certainly create a Muslim Europe by 2100.
Yet all this immigration has not been accompanied by integration and assimilation – not because of European racism, but by the Muslims’ own choice. Fallaci noted that many other groups have assimilated into European societies, but Muslims have not. “They don even care to learn our language. They only obey the rules and laws of Sharia.” They do not want to learn European ways; rather, “they want to impose on us their own habits and way of life. They have no intention of integrating with us. On the contrary, they demand that we integrate with them.” Today’s Islamic expansionism, therefore, does not need the armies and fleets with which the Ottoman Empire once terrorized Europe. It only needs the immigrants, whom short-sighted politicians and befuddled multiculturalists continue to welcome. Fallaci said that Europeans – French, Dutch, Germans, English, Italians – are about to reach the status of the Comanches, Cherokees, and Sioux: “We will end up on their reservation.” She noted that some Muslim spokesmen, confident of their imminent supremacy, already refer to non-Muslim Europeans as “indigenous people” or “aboriginals.”
What to do about all this? Establish dialogue with Muslim leaders? Try to strengthen moderate Islam? Fallaci was dismissive of both options. Muslims have no intention of entering into genuine dialogue with non-Muslims, she said, and “I do not believe in moderate Islam. What moderate Islam? Is it enough not to cut heads off? Moderate Islam is another invention of ours.” Adopting Western dress, she said, was easy; adopting Western values was not.
Then Fallaci threw down the gauntlet to the multicultural, politically correct, and fearful. “There is not,” she asserted, “good Islam or bad Islam. There is just Islam. And Islam is the Qur’an. And the Qur’an is the Mein Kampf of this movement. The Qur’an demands the annihilation or subjugation of the other, and wants to substitute totalitarianism for democracy. Read it over, that Mein Kampf. In whatever version, you will find that all the evil that the sons of Allah commit against themselves and against others is in it.” As jarring as such language is to contemporary sensibilities, Fallaci here made a statement of fact that can be verified or disproved. And indeed: Islamic terrorists such as Osama bin Laden, Zarqawi, and others have never hesitated to quote the Qur’an copiously to justify their actions. It remains for those who identify themselves as moderate Muslims to convince violent Muslims that they are misusing the Qur’an – if indeed they are – and should lay down their arms. They have had no notable success in this so far.
Fallaci’s a voice of rare courage. “I am not as young and energetic as you are,” she told the crowd Monday night. “I am hopelessly ill. I shall not last long.” When she is gone, we may hope – for all our sakes – that many others will be ready to step into the breach and speak the truth as she did, whatever the cost, as she did. As Oriana Fallaci so memorably demonstrated in her address on receiving the Annie Taylor Award, nothing less than our civilization itself is at stake.
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