Thursday, May 26, 2005


The sue me, sue you blues

Back in April 2004, Adel Smith, the president of the Muslim Union of Italy, filed suit against Oriana Fallaci. He argued that her latest book, The Force of Reason, amounted to a hateful and defamatory attack on Islam and its adherents. Now (according to the BBC News) the suit has come within hailing distance of an actual courtroom. The preliminary investigative judge Armando Grasso has given the prosecution ten days to formulate its charges, and noted that the book does indeed contain expressions "unequivocally offensive to Islam." Fallaci and her attorneys, who have already beat back a legal assault on The Rage and the Pride in the French courts, are no doubt preparing a free speech defense. My assumption is that the author will prevail should the case go to trial--but given the kinks and contortions of the Italian judicial system, who knows?

Having had my own Close Encounter of the Worst Kind with Fallaci back in the early 1990s--I translated Inshallah, a miserable and acrimonious experience--I'm finding it hard to be objective here. I haven't read The Force of Reason, which will be published in this country on August 23. I did thumb through The Rage and the Pride, which looked like a real mess to me: an incoherent argument delivered in the author's own, Chico-Marx-like brand of broken English. (Don't take my word for it, though: see how the anti-Islamist Christopher Hitchens spit-roasted this rambling production in The Atlantic Monthly, calling it "a sort of primer in how not to write about Islam.") If the new book is anything like its predecessor, I'm not sure how useful an addition it will be to the debate about Islam and the West. Yet I will defend Oriana's absolute right to express her ungrammatical rage, as long as I don't have to read it. Whether Armando Grasso will take a similar tack is anybody's guess.

Calling Hitchens an anti Islamist is misleading as being an enthusiastic atheist he is also an anti Christian, anti Jew and probably anti Buddhist.

He is also militantly opposed to the kind of fundamantalist
Islam , mostly identified as the Wasabbi strain, that condones—actually encourages suicide bombing and sectarian violence.

In any case ,Hitch does not reserve his scorn and contempt only for Islamic murderers and terrortists
I have responded to Robert Birnbaum's comment via email, but would like to clarify matters here as well. I called Christopher Hitchens (a writer I admire) an anti-Islamist--ie, opposed to the violent, fundamentalism strain of Islam. That is certainly accurate. It also seems relevant, since I was citing his comments about Oriana Fallaci's clash-of-civilizations polemic. But I didn't mean to define Hitchens by this off-the-cuff label. Needless to say, his take on things is considerably more complicated--and yes, he is an equal-opportunity despiser of organized religion.
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