The prosecution of polemicist Oriana Fallaci for insulting Islam is an insult and threat to democracy and free speech in Italy. But while I would have no hesitation signing a petition to overturn Italy’s version of our upcoming ‘religious hatred’ legislation and would defend her right to insult whoever she wishes, Fallaci is no heroinne for the secularist left.
I’ve read her two post 9-11 books, Anger and Pride and the Force of Reason, and while she makes a strident criticism of Islamism she goes beyond a political attack on a political movement to make alarmist generalisations about Muslims in Europe. She also argues for a reinforcement of Christian values in Europe as a way of countering what she sees as an impending Islamic takeover.
If you haven’t read her books (and I’m not recommending you should) there is a taste of her views in a sycophantic interview with Opinion Journal today:
“Europe is no longer Europe, it is ‘Eurabia,’ a colony of Islam, where the Islamic invasion does not proceed only in a physical sense, but also in a mental and cultural sense. Servility to the invaders has poisoned democracy, with obvious consequences for the freedom of thought, and for the concept itself of liberty.”
….The increased presence of Muslims in Italy, and in Europe, is directly proportional to our loss of freedom.”
The phrase Eurabia is one you can find on a number of, usually right-wing American, blogs which promote the idea that our continent has been ‘invaded’ as part of a Muslim plot to take over Europe, impose Sharia law and force non-Muslim Europeans into a servile state of dhimmitude. It is a conspiracy theory albeit one that is given a certain credence in parts of the media as you can see in the writings of Melanie Phillips and Mark Steyn.
The notion that immigrant workers in Europe are a fifth column attempting to capture the continent for Islam is dangerous nonsense.
That doesn’t mean however that one shouldn’t be on guard against attempts to dilute democracy in order to accomodate Islam or any other religion. Criticising those like Falllaci does not involve being blind to dangers or being reluctant to recognise Islamist ideology for what it is.
In fact it is not only Fallaci who fails to make the distinction between Islam, the religion and Islamism, the political movement. Large sections of the left are reluctant to publicly criticise Islamists because they feel they would be attacking ethnic minorities – like Fallaci they mentally push all Muslims into the Islamist camp and give the reactionaries an assumed leadership position that they not only don’t merit but in fact don’t have.
If there is to be an anti-Islamist strategy in Europe it should surely be about doing the exact opposite of this – recognising that people of real or nominal Muslim faith are not the property of reactionary ideologues and working to ensure that whatever influence the Islamists do have over European Muslims is broken.