Society / Italie
Islam in Italy: The convulsions of Oriana Fallaci
Nathalie Galesne - 30/01/2009
Why and how can history, which never repeats itself, nevertheless enjoy mimicking its blackest moments? Far from being eradicated racism, anti-Semitism and today anti-Islamism display analogies and recurrences with the rise of Fascism in Europe that are frightening to say the least. Yet the hate for Islam develops differently according to the various European countries, France, Italy, Germany or Belgium… It would be therefore useful for each of these national spaces to ask themselves what is the breeding ground for abjection. What social, economic, historic, political, symbolic conditions can explain its current vitality? A small detour around Italy.
Writing on hatred
Manhattan 2001 : Oriana Fallaci lives withdrawn in solitude when she witnesses an overwhelming event: a bombing near her home, two towers implode and collapse, disarticulated bodies thrown out in space. She’s seized by a fit of hate that she sinks in ink. First as a long interview addressed to the paper “Corriere della Sera”, shortly after it becomes a book: The Hate and the Pride .
Sold in about 1 million copies in Italy, translated and published in several countries, this book reproduces - as will then underline the lawyer of the MRAP (Movement Against Racism and for Friendship between Peoples), Hacen Taleb, during the trial in France against the best-seller - “the method of Anti-Semitic literature from the end of the XIX century to the 1930’s”.
This destructive pamphlet, devoid of any analysis apprehending the tragedy of the 9/11 attempts, is even more shocking as Oriana Fallaci knew her hour of glory as a major reporter, who interviewed the leading political leaders of the past century: Deng Xiaoping, Indira Gandhi, Khomeini, Golda Meir, Lech Walesa...
But what is worse than this scathing attack, is the real scandal given by the fact that this racist execration, this cry of war launched against all Muslims, was so widely echoed by the media in Italy and bounced around the rest of Europe.
The real scandal is that this scream has so easily managed to express itself in one of the peninsula’s leading newspapers the “Corriere della Sera”, often compared to “Le Monde” or to “the New York Times”, and that it managed to effortlessly find a space within Italy’s political debate. In 2004, Silvio Berlusconi asked Oriana Fallaci to run for office for the Municipality of Florence. This comes as no surprise, didn’t he declare himself the day after the 9/11 attacks the superiority of the Western civilisation over the others?
Now a reference, The Rage and the Pride marks an extremely alarming turning point, a new threshold in the radicalisation against Islam, as it allows expressing scot free a hatred for Islam, an anti-Arab racism, and more generally a violent allergy for the diversity of the most disadvantaged group: immigrants. Since its release, the book gained numerous followers.
The Rage and the Pride , selected extracts:
"Blind Westerners have but to listen to their Hosannas to the all merciful and irascible God, to their Allah Akbar-Allah Akbar hollering. Jihad war, holy Jihad. Mere lunatic fringes? Mere fanatical minorities? No my dear, no. Fanatics are millions and millions”.
"Since a thousand four hundred years (Islam) is stagnant, it doesn’t come out of the abyss of its blindness, it doesn’t open the doors to the conquests of civilisation, it doesn’t want to hear about freedom and justice and democracy and progress.”
“You don’t realise that the Osama Bin Ladens feel authorised to kill you, you and your children, because you drink wine and beer, because you don’t’ wear a long beard or the chador, because you go to the theatre or the cinema, you listen to music and pop songs […]”
“I have no intention to be punished for my atheism by the sons of Allah. That is by gentlemen who instead of contributing to the progress of humanity, spend their time with their behinds up in the air, praying five times a day!”
“They’re too clever, too organised these foreign workers. And they make too many children. Italians don’t make children anymore, the idiots. The same goes for the other Europeans. The sons of Allah, on the contrary, multiply like rats […]”
“I believe there’s something in Arab men that disgusts women of good taste.”
Oriana Fallaci, The Rage and the Pride
On 30 July 2008, the dense family saga Un cappello pieno di ciliege (A Hat Full of Cherries) by Oriana Fallaci covers the walls of all the libraries, train stations and airports of the peninsula while the release of the book is announced with great pomp by the “Corriere della sera” and long excerpts are published in its weekly supplement. “The posthumous masterpiece of the most beloved female author”, titles the magazine on its cover, without specifying by whom she’s loved. The journalist incites the readers to disregard the rancid controversies in order to enjoy the media and commercial feast of this autobiographic fresco, started in the 90’s and interrupted by the 9/11 attacks. “Let’s forget for a moment”, writes Alessandro Cannavò “September 11 and what followed. Let’s forget the angry woman who won the title of paladin of the West against the terrorist and cultural threats of a pestering Islamism; the writer who, with the impetuous sharpness of a free thinker forged the word “Eurabia” and brutally shattered several taboos on coexistence.”
Published about 2 years after her death, which occurred on 15 September 2006, Oriana Fallaci therefore made a triumphant comeback on the media scene. Besides, the latter received many prizes, decorations and recognitions, even after the release of her scandal book. Pope Benedict XVI, whom she “genuinely venerated” (1), gave her a private audience at his summer residence in Castel Gandolfo in August 2005. Her private reporter library and objects were bequeathed after her death to the Pontifical Lateran University. The newspaper “Libero” headed by Vittorio Feltri and Renato Farina launched a petition on March 2005 so that the President of the Republic would name her senator for life. Carlo Azeglio Ciampi, following to the proposition of Letizia Moratti, former Minister of Education and presently Mayor of Milan, limited himself to decorating her with the gold medal of Merit for her contribution to Italian culture. Oriana Fallaci received the most prestigious prize of the city of Milan: the Ambrogino d’oro. Some months before her death, during the cartoon scandal, she received her last medal in New York by the hands of the President of the Regional Council of Tuscany, Riccardo Nencini, who declared that Oriana Fallaci was the ambassador of Tuscan culture in the world. During the ceremony, the latter intervened by informing the public that she was making her own caricature of the Prophet: “I want to draw Mohammed with his 9 women, including the little girl he married at 70, his 16 concubines and a female camel with a burqa…”
(1)These intentions were reported by Rino Fisichella, Chief Education Officer of the Pontifical Lateran University, and a friend of Oriana Fallaci. According to Fisichella, this donation was the writer’s last offer to Pope Benedict XVI who she “genuinely venerated”.