Oriana Fallaci update
June 24, 2005 4:18 AM   Subscribe

Oriana Fallaci back in the soup. She's being sued in Italy for defaming Islam in her last book, The Rage and the Pride, and faces up to two years in prison. The suit was brought by President of the Italian Muslim Union, Sig. Adel Smith, a fellow who's activism even other Muslims sometimes profess to find a bit much.) And now, as if this makes things right, he's gone to jail for defaming Catholicism. Ms Fallaci's most recent book, The Force of Reason, as radioactive as her last, is due out in America later this year. The free speech in Europe thing is interesting, if crazy making, but does it distract us from the issues that dare not speak their names? Is she right, can East and West survive together? Or are we really best advised to go our separate ways?
posted by IndigoJones (15 comments total)
Please, not the war of civilisations again...

Fallaci is a bitter, hateful mysanthrope who abuses language and history and panders to the lowest common denominator to serve her boundless ego and her publisher's revenues. End of story. That's the only other conclusion you can reach after having read any of her writings, aside from 'boy I wish I hadn't' and 'I need a shower'. She's no better than the worst religious fundamentalists. It's the same attitude.

I just cannot see any way of having any meaningful discussion on serious cultural issues by using that kind of stuff as a starting point.
posted by funambulist at 9:47 AM on June 24, 2005

it's actually interesting, because despite the fact that religion is prominent in europe overall in day-to-day lives, there really is a separation of church and state. i remember first hearing about The United States of Europe on NPR (and subsequently buying the book), which explains a lot of the norms there...one of the things he explained was, "after every speech, George W. Bush says 'God Bless America.' If Tony Blair said 'God Bless Britain,' he'd be laughed off the podium." It's not just that it would be "weird," but it's the fact that America has infused so much of its religion openly with its government, that other countries, especially in Europe, see it as a little backwards.

Both sides are really in the wrong. The indignant Muslims can not ban ideas, they can not ban anything they do not like--this includes criticism of their religion. I don't hate all Muslims, and I don't hate all Christians, or Jews. You could say that I strongly dislike all of their religions and what they've brought to the world, but not hate--and this is Fallaci's problem. She apparently hates Islam, and targets it specifically, while ignoring the other religions on the planet.

And like I said, trying to just silence anything that offends you makes you like those who crusade for censorship. there's no use for it--honestly, there really shouldn't be things in your life that offend you like that. there can be things that annoy you, but another big problem with religion is that you have to be PC: that is, humor the religious people, because they don't like hearing criticism. the fact that they make their religion this pillar in their lives and go to great lengths to care as much as they can and get offended as often as possible is ridiculous.

"offensive to islam?" how fucking naive can you get? i could say about eighty million things in this post that would be "offensive" to plenty of people: you know, fuck jesus, fuck allah, fuck god, fuck em all, that sort of thing. the issue is rationalising your own fear by villifying others. if you are so weak about your own religion that you need to justify it by silencing the nay-sayers, you should rethink your beliefs.

"defaming religion." what a joke. let's arrest george carlin, shall we?
posted by Lockeownzj00 at 10:00 AM on June 24, 2005

Continental Europe has a special problem. With its roots in Roman and Napoleonic Law, unlike Common Law in Britain and the US, it is caught in an odd paradox.

According to Common Law, if an act is not specifically prohibited by law, then it is legal. Whereas, under Roman and Napoleonic Law, unless an act is legal, permitted by government, it is by definition illegal. You cannot do something unless it is permitted by government.

But what this means with free speech is that, no matter *what* she says, it must be allowed by government before she says it. But what government wants to not just condone, but give the appearance of sponsoring, "hate speech"?

And that is why the EU government makes some awfully wacky and anti-freedom decisions, such as trying to prohibit comedians in England from making fun of the French. To do otherwise, in their minds, would be for the government to tacitly endorse anti-French speech.

In America, the government would say that they cannot legally prohibit "hate speech", because government is not "permitted" to interfere. So you can offend all day and all night without a problem.

Because of its roots in Common Law.
posted by kablam at 11:03 AM on June 24, 2005

> such as trying to prohibit comedians in England from making fun of the French

Straw man - or should I say, homme de paille. ;)
In other words, pas vrai!

Also, kablam, I am not sure your explanation of different legal systems is accurate. Maybe in theory, I don't know, but certainly not in reality. There is no such thing as something being illegal unless specifically approved in a law, it's the other way round.

Hate speech laws are based on other premises.
posted by funambulist at 11:21 AM on June 24, 2005

I don't agree with her finger-pointing at all, but it's hard not to notice certain symptoms of a culture of decline in Europe. It is no longer a continent that could produce a Bach or a Kafka.
posted by ori at 11:33 AM on June 24, 2005

The CBC program As it Happens interviewed Ms. Fallaci on their show about this on May 25th. She's quite a character.
posted by tarheelcoxn at 11:46 AM on June 24, 2005

"...If Tony Blair said 'God Bless Britain,' he'd be laughed off the podium."

What if he said "God save the Queen?"
posted by Kwantsar at 12:51 PM on June 24, 2005

What if he said "God save the Queen?"

There's probably an unspoken Johnny Rotten clause preventing that option.
posted by funambulist at 1:44 PM on June 24, 2005

I agree 100% with funabulist, and would only add that these ridiculous laws only seek to make Fallaci more, and not less, credible.
posted by chaz at 2:14 PM on June 24, 2005

these ridiculous laws only seek to make Fallaci more, and not less, credible.

I doubt that that was the intention, but if so, do the laws make the equally outspoken Mr Smith more, or less, credible?
posted by IndigoJones at 5:06 PM on June 24, 2005

Keep in mind the laws applying to this particular case of Fallaci being sued in Italy have nothing to do with EU laws or hate speech itself.

The laws in question here are Italian laws on vilification of religion, they are remainders of the old monarchic system, in fact other laws in that category (vilification of public officials, of the flag, of the president of the republic, etc.) are also inherited from the legal code developed during the fascist era. Ridiculous, yes, and rarely if ever used, but because they're still there, someone spotted an opening to sue Fallaci.

Laws about incitement to hatred as proposed at EU level have not been enforced unanymously across the EU; each member State has to choose wether to pass those laws and enforce them or not, and in Italy they have not been passed yet.

So this particular case is a whole other story from those 'hate speech' laws as discussed in UK and elsewhere in Europe.
posted by funambulist at 3:08 AM on June 25, 2005

... sorry typo in first line of previous comment: EU laws oN hate speech, not oR.
posted by funambulist at 3:10 AM on June 25, 2005

Kablam, Scots law is based on Roman law too, although UK wide legislation has its roots in Common Law. Just an FYI.
posted by jackiemcghee at 7:20 AM on June 25, 2005

ori - can I ask you a question? Has any nation had a new Bach or Kafka? I'll key you in on the answer to that. It's no. Why on earth would we need a new Bach? Is all music since Bach worthless? Is all literature since Kafka a waste of paper? How can you write off Europe and it's many artists like that with a straight face? Is every artistic endeavour of the past century just crap? Really?
posted by longbaugh at 11:04 AM on June 25, 2005

According to Common Law, if an act is not specifically prohibited by law, then it is legal. Whereas, under Roman and Napoleonic Law, unless an act is legal, permitted by government, it is by definition illegal.

Oh boy, how many times will I have to hear that egregious fallacy from self-righteous Anglo-Saxons.
posted by Skeptic at 5:08 PM on June 26, 2005

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