Journalist and author Oriana Fallaci died yesterday at age 77 of cancer in Florence.
Attempts were made in 2002 in Switzerland, and more recently in Italy (her pending trial had been postponed to December 18th), to prosecute her on the basis of her writings for such supposed crimes as “inciting racial hatred or discrimination” (Switzerland) and “making defamatory statements about a religion” (Italy).
I think the least we can do is to commemorate her passing by sharing some of her observations and opinions.
Tunku Varadarajan, in today’s Wall Street Journal, recalling just how eloquent she could be on the subject of Islam, quotes from a letter she wrote to him in March.
In the speech I gave at the Italian consulate in New York to accept one of the four golden medals I have received in the last two months, I told that I had drawn a cartoon on the Prophet and his nine wives including the 9 year old one and his sixteen concubines including the she-camel. But I had not published it because I had not been able to draw well the she-camel. (True). The author of the booklet which asks the Moslems to eliminate me in accord with four Suras of the Koran even sued me . . . Meaning now in Italy they even appeal to the Italian law to incriminate an Italian citizen for a ‘vilifying’ cartoon that nobody has seen.
Tunku finds Fallaci a little too high-proof, and remarks:
This is acid, bitter, marvelously funny. Oriana Fallaci was very brave. Perhaps a little too brave. But now is not the time to judge her by proportions.
Mark Steyn, on the other hand, is much more keen.
Racked by cancer, Oriana Fallaci spends most of her time in one of the few jurisdictions in the western world where she is not in legal jeopardy – New York City, whence she pens magnificent screeds in the hope of rousing Europe to save itself. Good luck with that. She writes in Italian, of course, but she translates them herself into what she calls “the oddities of Fallaci’s English”, and the result is a bravura improvised aria, impassioned and somewhat unpredictable. It’s full of facts, starting with the fall of Constantinople in 1453, when Mehmet II celebrated with beheading and sodomizing, and some lucky lads found themselves on the receiving end of both. This section is a lively read in an age when most westerners, consciously or otherwise, adopt the blithe incuriosity of Jimmy Kennedy’s marvelous couplet in his 1950s pop hit “Istanbul (Not Constantinople)”:
Why did Constantinople get the works?
That’s nobody’s business but the Turks.
Signora Fallaci then moves on to the livelier examples of contemporary Islam — for example, Ayatollah Khomeini’s “Blue Book” and its helpful advice on romantic matters: “If a man marries a minor who has reached the age of nine and if during the defloration he immediately breaks the hymen, he cannot enjoy her any longer.” I’ll say. I know it always ruins my evening. Also: “A man who has had sexual relations with an animal, such as a sheep, may not eat its meat. He would commit sin.” Indeed. A quiet cigarette afterwards as you listen to your favourite Johnny Mathis LP and then a promise to call her next week and swing by the pasture is by far the best way. It may also be a sin to roast your nine-year old wife, but the Ayatollah’s not clear on that.
Moliter ossa cubent. (“May the earth lay lightly on her bones.”)