Monday, September 18, 2006
ORIANA, FREEDOM FIGHTER
t was a long expected, but no less saddening event carried in the news last Friday, when we learned of the death of the Italian writer Oriana Fallaci. She had finally lost her long battle against cancer -- or as she called it, "the alien" -- at the age of 77.
She had fought with her words, the fascism that stalked the world in her youth, and with no less committment against the fascism that stalks it today. She was a woman of the Left who had no patience for the political correctness straitjacket which hampers honest debate of the current struggle, and was an outcast among many of her former comrades for this fearless honesty -- a position she was said to relish.
We could certainly have used another decade of her writings, but it was not to be. But even in the moment of her passing, it was as though she was making a point. I don't know if she was aware of Pope Benedict's words on that day, but she probably didn't see the illiterate rage which followed them. It would not have surprised her. The religious edicts calling for Benedict's death; the riots and destruction of churches in several countries; the Italian nun who trained nurses at a Kindergarten hospital, shot dead in Somalia; angry mass demonstrations from Karachi to Jakarta -- all directed toward a literate man making a rational point -- would not have surprised her. But they make us remember what a crucial voice we have lost, when we miss hearing it so immediately.
[The terrorist attacks Saturday night in southern Thailand's main city Hat Yai, are not thought (officially) to be connected with this current Muslim rage at the Pope, and is likely just another incident among the thousands of jihadi attacks in this country over the past two and a half years. But who knows? The local terrorists may have decided that Saturday was a good day to go, since Muslims in other countries were already raging. The series of bomb blasts killed four people, including a Canadian, the first westerner to be killed in the southern insurgency.]
Oriana Fallaci's friend Michael Ledeen recounts some fitting memories from her life, and also notes the current event context:
For the moment, she’s still very much with us. All you have to do is look at the news of the day, replete with the grotesque distortions of Pope Benedict’s thoughtful speech in Germany. Those distortions are driven by one her pet peeves: the politically correct fear of offending Muslims, any Muslims, even those who want us dead and decapitated. She and Benedict evidently hit it off quite well, truly the odd couple, she the lifelong atheist (albeit, in her delightfully paradoxical formulation, a “Christian atheist”)and he the lifelong theologian.Apparently, Signora Fallaci and Pope Benedict had actually met recently, as a reader at Hot Air sent in a translated quote from an interview she had done earlier this year with Flemming Rose, the editor of the Danish paper which originally printed the cartoons which last set the Muslim world into a ferocious rage.
[M]ake no mistake: intellectually he’s very sharp. I believe, Ratzinger is going to protect Europe and to defend the West, but it’s no easy job he’s got, it’s difficult to be President or King to a country, it’s difficult to paint or write, but being Pope, mama mia, mama mia! But I believe in him. When I told him, I was an atheist, he said: ‘If you don’t believe in God, then behave as if he existed.’ That’s so brilliant!AllahPundit also had an earlier piece with some great anecdotes from her life, and a glimpse at what lay behind her even more ferocious courage toward the end of her life. She lived to the full, the freedom she defended and, "I say what I want."
Wretchard at Belmont Club listened to her give a lecture more than twenty years ago at Harvard, and recently heard from a friend who had seen her in one of her last public appearances.
And this time I paid attention, not to a woman in the autumn of her beauty, but to a warrior in the fullness of her strength. At the time of her death Oriana Fallaci was facing a suit in Italy for daring to suggest that her country and culture were under threat from radical Islam. In her youth she did not bow to Hitler; and in her old age she hurled defiance at yet another tyranny.I had heard that she could not return to her native Italy because of this political correctness court case against her (she lived in New York), but evidently she defied that as well, and departed this world from Florence.
Victor Davis Hanson finds few comparable with her on the "Left" (Hitchens, William Shawcross, a few others), and not too many on the "Right" either.
Candor, after all, can get one killed, exiled, or ostracized—whether a Danish cartoonist, a Dutch filmmaker, a Wall Street Journal reporter, or a British-Indian novelist. So here, ill and in her seventies, returned Ms. Fallaci one last time to take up the hammer and tongs against radical Islam—a diminutive woman of the Left and self-proclaimed atheist who wrote more bravely on behalf of her civilization than have most who are hale, males, conservatives, or Christians.The spectacle of the past few days, with masses of raging Islamist illiterates demanding either revenge against Pope Benedict, or his abject admission of guilt and plea for forgiveness (preferably on his knees before the Ummah), should put the problem in focus. These masses have no idea what he said or what the disputed quote referred to, much less the point he was making. A handful of words were lifted out of his address -- the words of an ancient Byzantine emperor, which he did not endorse -- and missed his entire point. The point he was making included a prominent reference to the "no compulsion in religion" portion of the Qur'an. The only words quoted in the Arabic press to inflame passions were the ones the Pope himself labelled as "brusque," spoken by someone else some 600+ years ago when his country was under Ottoman attack, and somewhat understandably averse to the spread of Islam by the sword.
But no matter, apparently. Rage is the thing, and it appears too many Muslims are looking for any reason to indulge in it (or to be easily led around by some of their rage-pimp imams). If someone makes remarks about the existence of Islamist-driven violence, look for demonstration placards like those in London this summer, demanding the beheading of such people. It's an insult to Islam, you know. If someone says that someone else a very long time ago made remarks about the existence of Islamist-driven violence, he'll evidently get the same response. Even if he reminds, practically in the same breath, that such violence goes against the very word of the Qur'an. The rage-pimps are effectively saying, "We don't care what you say or how you say it. We'll get mad when we want to. Mention violence in any context with our religion, for whatever reason, and we'll burn and kill, and make fatwas against you." Way to prove the point, dumbass.
And by quoting from the emperor rhetorician Manuel Paleologus—whose desperate efforts at strengthening the Morea and the Isthmus at Corinth a generation before that awful Tuesday, May 29, 1453 all came to naught—the Pope failed to grasp that under the tenets of radical Islam of the modern age, context means little, intent nothing, learning less than zero. If a sentence, indeed a mere phrase can be taken out of context, twisted, manipulated to show an absence of deference to Islam, furor ensues, death threats follow, assassins load their belts—even as the New York Times or the Guardian issues its sanctimonious apologies in the hope that the crocodile will eat them last.Ah yes, the demands for apologies by those who should know better. Tonight on MetroTV news from Indonesia, the first-selected story on the "Suara Anda" program (Your Voice), was the one called "Vatican Begs Forgiveness." Absolute nonsense of course, but maybe it'll quieten them down in Jakarta. Benedict regretted the misunderstanding, but he didn't apologise (as I hoped he wouldn't) for his true and logical words. He said it in a very generous and calming way, but it was basically a form of the "I'm sorry you're too stupid to understand what I was saying," apology.
Imams and Muslim "intellectuals" around the world defame Christians, Jews and unbelievers every day of the week (and twice on Friday), in clear language. Not all, of course, but it must happen a thousand times a day, somewhere. Nobody asks for any apologies, because that would be fruitless. Yet ask them to listen to reason and logic, and they have no idea what that is. So much easier to willfully misunderstand, become enraged, and prove the point that wasn't even being made -- but rather, a point that was made 600 years ago.
On Sunday, a Catholic Londoner attended Mass at Westminster Cathedral. You'll never guess what greeted worshippers as they came outside. The message was clear, unambiguous and intimidating, but don't wait for any apologies. In Canada's National Post, Father Raymond J. de Souza writes:
In response to this historical excursus in an academic lecture by one of the world's most erudite theologians, we are witnessing a wave of madness and malice, no doubt an embarrassment to millions of Muslims.And before, and before, and before. De Souza includes a portion of Benedict's address at the end of his piece, including the context for the rage-inducing quotation. He had wrapped up his point with a further quote of Manuel Paleologus, saying:
Roman Catholics are likely angry. Relations between adherents of the two religions simply cannot develop without all conducting themselves as mature adults.
It does a disservice to children to call the wild-eyed statements and deranged behaviour of the past days childish.
It is not only the obscenity of the Muslim Brotherhood, an Islamist terrorist band suppressed in several Muslim states, demanding an apology from anyone, let alone the Holy Father.
It is not only the grandstanding Pakistani politicians passing resolutions condemning a papal speech few read, and even fewer understood. It is not only the extraneous charges about the Holocaust and Hitler by the agitated and excited.
It is that we have seen this before.
"Not to act reasonably is contrary to the nature of God," said Manuel II, according to his Christian understanding of God, in response to his Persian interlocutor. It is to this great logos, to this breadth of reason, that we invite our partners in the dialogue of cultures.Wai to Blue Crab Boulevard.
Oriana Fallaci would have had a lot to say about this, but now her voice is gone. I feel that she would probably have been comforted to see her faith in Pope Benedict borne out. Go well, Oriana, freedom fighter.
[Links to others remembering Oriana Fallaci at PJM: IN MEMORIAM: ORIANA FALLACI, 1929 - 2006]