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|Bible of the Muslim haters|
|06/11/02 at 22:21:30|
Bible of the Muslim haters
The popularity of a virulent new book shows how deeply Islamophobia has taken root in western Europe
Tuesday June 11, 2002
A controversy has convulsed Italy and France with the publication of a rabidly Islamophobic book, La rabbia e l'orgoglio, by leading Italian publisher Rizzoli and the mainstream French publisher Plon, which has just brought out a translation.
Its author, Oriana Fallaci, made a name for herself in the 70s with her vicious interviews with heads of state. Veering violently from left to right, as many Europeans have in recent years, she now pens this diatribe against Muslims, perhaps to cash in on Europe's newest xenophobia: "They breed like rats, and they piss in baptismal fonts."
On first reading this, I thought it some choice medieval fulmination about "evil-doers" - Jews, Muslims, heretics, women and other vermin that Christendom wanted annihilated. But it was written in the 21st century by a secular European woman, selling a million copies in her and Berlusconi's ("We are more civilised than they are") Italy. It has found a respectable publisher in France, and the leading daily Le Figaro did not think twice about allowing its hate-exciting author to grace its front page last week.
Had this book's victims been anyone other than Muslims, it would not have been published, and certainly not by any self-respecting house. But Muslims are fair game now and to defame them en masse has become not only respectable, but highly profitable. The defamer has nothing to fear, as there are no laws to check such vitriolic prejudice, nor do Muslims have the organised self-defence groups that Jews have formed so successfully to silence would be anti-semites.
One can dismiss Fallaci's rantings as those of an enraged has-been who, even in her heyday, communicated her ego in her writing. Like that other ageing beauty, Brigitte Bardot, now the sun-wizened pin-up of the south of France's National Front, Fallaci's hatred and fear of Muslims is both visceral and hysterical - no doubt exacerbated by the fact that she lives in New York and seems to have swallowed wholesale the US government's denomination of Arabs and Muslims as synonymous with "terrorists".
In contrast to her anti-Muslim hysteria is her equally hysterical fervour for Jews, as though to damn the former were somehow to help the latter. It is interesting that in France, high-profile Jews like Bernard-Henri Levy have been among the few to send her packing. If I were Jewish, I would run screaming from such an exploitative and ultimately demeaning espousal of my people's suffering.
Fallaci's accolade of Ariel Sharon as a "Shakespearean figure" would have left the bard himself cursing in quatrains. Our great modern-day dramatists - Harold Pinter most notably, or Ronal` Harwood, both Jewish - would cringe at such a comparison and at the sinister political sentiments lurking behind it. They would instantly see a betrayal of humanity in taking sides so cheaply.
One cannot help but suspect that, having veered so violently from left to right, Fallaci must hate having once been in love with Alexander Panagoulis, the Greek "terrorist" who, in 1967, tried to blow up his country's dictator and was captured, imprisoned, tortured and finally freed in a general amnesty in 1973, only to be murdered by the colonels' henchmen. His life story (as recounted in Fallaci's novel, A Man, in which she glamorised herself as Bonnie to his revolutionary Clyde) is identical to that of thousands of Palestinians, whose attempts to liberate their country have now met with an outpouring of Fallaci's most virulent, pro-military bile.
My intention, however, is not to attempt a deep psychoanalysis of Ms Fallaci, nor to give extra oxygen to a rant that would have embarrassed Benito Mussolini. It is to expose this drivel as an example of the now fashionable polemic - another weapon in the western arsenal, along with cluster bombs and missiles, with which to do battle against Muslims of every nationality and political belief.
White western Europe sees itself - wrongly, as research illustrates - as besieged by "hooded hordes" in the guise of thieving immigrants or asylum seekers. The recent, well-orchestrated campaign alerting opinion to the rise of anti-semitism in Europe camouflages the fact that Jews are not the foremost victims in the carnival of hatred. That dubious honour goes to Muslims, Europe's largest religious minority, numbering over 20 million.
They are the continent's poorest and most badly housed citizens. Their unemployment rate - double, often treble, the average - is the direct result of the increasing prejudice of employers, unchecked by any legal constraints. It is also the result of neglect, over a long period, by governments that did nothing to redress the festering sense of injustice among the young in Muslim ghettos.
Though it is hardly ever reported in a media that has few Muslim writers, the vast majority of racially motivated maimings and killings across Europe over the past decade have been directed at Muslims - not at the asylum-seeking "aliens" shoved into insalubrious camps, but against second and third-generation Europeans such as my own children, whose continent this is, at least as surely as it is Oriana Fallaci's.
Rana Kabbani is a writer who lives in Paris.
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