Oriana Fallaci is one of the most intriguing writers and journalists of the century (this one or last). She was born in Florence, Italy (or if you prefer, Firenze), and joined the Italian anti-fascist resistance with her father at the age of 10. After Italy was captured by the Allies and switched sides, her father was tortured by the Nazis but released alive; Oriana was honorably discharged from the Italian Army at the age of 14. She started writing at age 15, and became a reporter in Florence at age 16. She is famous for interviewing people that no one else can or wants to interview, and for interviewing in a penetrating style that gets her subjects to let down their guard and reveal things they normally would not reveal to a reporter. In other words, she gets around the spin, instead of getting caught up in it like a “typical” journalist. She has interviewed Henry Kissinger, Walter Cronkite, Indira Gandhi, Golda Meir, Yassir Arafat, the Shah of Iran, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, Willy Brandt, the Aytollah Khomeini, Moammar al-Qaddafi, and many others. (Online biographies are here and here.)
More recently, I have been influenced by her penetrating commentaries on the September 11 attacks and on the Iraq War, and her transcription/interview of an Iraqi soldier wounded in Kuwait in the 1991 war.
And now, at the age of 74, Oriana Fallaci has been indicted for writing a book which allegedly defames Islam. And she has been indicted in Italy, which she fought to make a free country:
Judge Orders Italian Author to Stand Trial
By Marta Falconi
The Associated Press
Wednesday, May 25, 2005; 7:19 PM
ROME — A judge has ordered best-selling author Oriana Fallaci to face trial on charges of defaming Islam in her recent book “The Strength of Reason,” the writer and an attorney in the case said Wednesday.
The case arose after Muslim activist Adel Smith charged that “some of the things she said are offensive to Islam,” said Smith’s attorney, Matteo Nicoli. He cited a phrase from the book that refers to Islam as “a pool … that never purifies.”
Fallaci, who is in her 70s, said she is accused of violating an Italian law that prohibits “outrage to religion.”
The case is proceeding even though a prosecutor who handled it previously sought dismissal of the charges on the grounds that Fallaci had a right to state her own political beliefs, Nicoli said.
“I have expressed my opinion through the written word through my books, that is all,” Fallaci told The Associated Press.
No date has been set for the trial to begin in the northern town of Bergamo, he said.
Fallaci, a former resistance fighter and war correspondent who lives in New York, has often stirred controversy for her blunt publications and provocative stances. During her journalistic career, Fallaci became known for uncompromising interviews with such world leaders as former U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger and Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat.
In the ruling obtained by the AP, the judge said that “Fallaci is addressing her hostile expressions against every manifestation of the Islamic religion and world and not only against certain extremist sectors.”
So according to this judge, if you criticize “extremist sectors” of a religion, that’s within your right to freedom of speech. But if you criticize “every manifestation” of a religion, that’s illegal in Italy, even if you no longer live there.
I eagerly await this judge’s indictment of those Muslims who criticize “every manifestation” of Christianity and Judaism. But I am not holding my breath.
UPDATE (5/26/05 2:05pm):
The blogosphere does not seem to have picked up this story yet, at least not in a big way. But Eugene Volokh has noticed and has some questions and The Cranky Professor has some details on the accuser in the case.
Another victory for the leftist gold standard of â€œtolerance,â€ the great enemy of free expression and the rhetorical mechanism by which totalitarianism is practiced by academic elites and leftist ideologues (on the right, this same impulse manifests itself in appeals to decorum or properly â€œmoralâ€ speechâ€”impulses regular readers of this site will recognize as frequent targets of my scorn).
Make no mistake, people: what you are witnessing here is a carefully crafted velvet insurgency, a diminution of freedoms on the part of leftist governments and judiciaries by way of gaining control of the parameters for acceptable speech and discussion.
And Glenn Reynolds is even more biting:
Basically, where people warn about theocracy in the United States, we’re seeing what amounts to a trial for blasphemy in Italy.
Tom Wolfe once said that Fascism is forever descending on the United States, but that somehow it always lands on Europe. Perhaps the same is true with theocracy?