The New Yorker: Oriana Fallaci directs her fury toward Islam.

The New Yorker: Fact
The New Yorker has a very interesting interview with Oriana Fallaci, by Margaret Talbot.

“Yesterday, I was hysterical,” the Italian journalist and novelist Oriana Fallaci said. She was telling me a story about a local dog owner and the liberties he’d allowed his animal to take in front of Fallaci’s town house, on the Upper East Side. Big mistake. “I no longer have the energy to get really angry, like I used to,” she added. It called to mind what the journalist Robert Scheer said about Fallaci after interviewing her for Playboy, in 1981: “For the first time in my life, I found myself feeling sorry for the likes of Khomeini, Qaddafi, the Shah of Iran, and Kissinger—all of whom had been the objects of her wrath—the people she described as interviewing ‘with a thousand feelings of rage.’ ”


Fallaci’s arguments appeal to many Europeans on a visceral level. The murder of the Dutch filmmaker Theo van Gogh, the “honor killings” of young women in England and Sweden, and the controversy in France over whether girls may wear head scarves to school have underscored the enormous clash in values between secular Europeans and fundamentalist Muslim immigrants. In Holland, immigration officials have begun showing potential immigrants films and brochures that detail certain “European” values, including equality of the sexes and tolerance of homosexuality. The implicit suggestion is that in order to live in Europe you must accept these ideas. Such clumsy efforts betray the frustration and confusion that many Europeans have felt since the riots that broke out in the suburbs of Paris last fall—perhaps the most spectacular sign that the assimilation of Western Europe’s fifteen million Muslims has stalled in many places, and never started in others.

Some European intellectuals have given Fallaci credit for offering an enraged, articulate voice to people who are genuinely bewildered and dismayed by the challenges of assimilating Islamic immigrants. In 2002, writing in the Italian weekly Panorama, Lucia Annunziata, a former foreign correspondent and columnist, and Carlo Rossella, then the magazine’s editor, argued that “The Rage and the Pride” had “redefined Italy’s conception of the current conflict between the Western world and the Islamic world. . . . Oriana Fallaci has confronted the issue with ironclad simplicity: We are different, she has said. And, at this point, we are incompatible.” The French philosopher Alain Finkielkraut, writing in Le Point, said that Fallaci “went too far,” reducing all “Sons of Allah to their worst elements,” yet he commended her for taking “the discourse and the actions of our adversaries” at their word and—in the wake of September 11th, the execution of Daniel Pearl, the destruction of Buddhas in Afghanistan, and other atrocities committed in the name of Islam—not being intimidated by the “penitential narcissism that makes the West guilty of even that which victimizes it.”


Fallaci sees the threat of Islamic fundamentalism as a revival of the Fascism that she and her sisters grew up fighting. She told me, “I am convinced that the situation is politically substantially the same as in 1938, with the pact in Munich, when England and France did not understand a thing. With the Muslims, we have done the same thing.” She elaborated, in an e-mail, “Look at the Muslims: in Europe they go on with their chadors and their burkas and their djellabahs. They go on with the habits preached by the Koran, they go on with mistreating their wives and daughters. They refuse our culture, in short, and try to impose their culture, or so-called culture, on us. . . . I reject them, and this is not only my duty toward my culture. Toward my values, my principles, my civilization. It is not only my duty toward my Christian roots. It is my duty toward freedom and toward the freedom fighter I am since I was a little girl fighting as a partisan against Nazi-Fascism. Islamism is the new Nazi-Fascism. With Nazi-Fascism, no compromise is possible. No hypocritical tolerance. And those who do not understand this simple reality are feeding the suicide of the West.”

Fallaci refuses to recognize the limitations of this metaphor—say, the fact that Muslim immigration is not the same as an annexation by another state. And although European countries should indeed refuse to countenance certain cultural practices—polygamy, “honor killings,” and anti-Semitic teachings, for example—Fallaci tends to portray the worst practices of Islamic fundamentalists as representative of all Muslims. Certainly, European countries have made some foolish compromises in the name of placating Muslim residents. In Germany, where courts have ordered that Muslim religious instruction be offered in schools, just as Christian instruction is, critics have complained that the Islamic teaching often perpetuates a conservative version of Islam. The result, the historian Bernard Lewis argued, in a recent talk in Washington, is that “Islam as taught in Turkish schools is a sort of modernized, semi-secularized version of Islam, and Islam as taught in German schools is the full Wahhabi blast.” (This is a good reminder of why the American model of keeping religious instruction out of public schools facilitates assimilation.) Many of Fallaci’s objections, however, have more to do with her aesthetic sensibilities. For her, hearing Muslim prayers in Tuscany—she does her own wailing imitation—is a form of oppression. Yet such examples do not rise to the level of argument that she wants to make, which is that the native culture of Italy will collapse if Muslims keep immigrating.

And it is well known . . . that I do not accept the mendacity of the so-called Moderate Islam. I do not believe that a Good Islam and a Bad Islam exist. Only Islam exists. And Islam is the Koran. And the Koran says what it says. Whatever its version. Of course there are exceptions. Also, considering the mathematical calculation of probabilities, some good Muslims must exist. I mean Muslims who appreciate freedom and democracy and secularism. But, as I say in the ‘Apocalypse,’ . . . good Muslims are few. So tragically few, in fact, that they must go around with bodyguards.” (Here she mentioned Ayaan Hirsi Ali, the Somali-born former member of the Dutch parliament, whom Holland, shamefully, declared last month that it would strip of her citizenship, citing an irregularity in her 1997 asylum application.) She wrote that she found my question about whether she would tolerate any mosques in Europe “insidious” and “offensive,” because it “aims to portray me as the bloodthirsty fanatics, who during the French Revolution beheaded even the statues of the Holy Virgin and of Jesus Christ and the Saints. Or as the equally bloodthirsty fanatics of the Bolshevik Revolution, who burned the icons and executed the clergymen and used the churches as warehouses. Really, no honest person can suggest that my ideas belong to that kind of people. 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.


Fallaci’s virtues are the virtues that shine most brightly in stark circumstances: the ferocious courage, and the willingness to say anything, that can amount to a life force. But Fallaci never convinced me that Europe’s encounter with immigration is that sort of circumstance. Not that it would matter to her. “You’ve got to get old, because you have nothing to lose,” she said over lunch that afternoon. “You have this respectability that is given to you, more or less. But you don’t give a damn. It is the ne plus ultra of freedom. And things that I didn’t used to say before—you know, there is in each of us a form of timidity, of cautiousness—now I open my big mouth. I say, ‘What are you going to do to me? You go fuck yourself—I say what I want.’ ”

2 thoughts on “The New Yorker: Oriana Fallaci directs her fury toward Islam.

  1. The article is sublime. A critical approach to a woman with controversial ideas without the slightest trace of villification, without even a hint of condemnation. If only European journalists had so much self-restraint.

    What comes forward in the article is a real woman of flesh and blood, a woman with likeable as well as less likeable traits. The author also has the European context pinned down very well.

    What struck me was the author’s puzzlement about the European tendency of prohibiting the expression of controversial opinions. This is clearly something that is very alien to her; a cultural gap between the US and Europe.

  2. Comment by Martijn:

    Please note that comments that I cannot read, are not allowed. Therefore, comments should be made in Dutch, English, German or, if you are really nice, French.

    best regards,


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