Oriana Fallaci, the brilliant, iconoclastic Italian journalist died today in her home city of Florence following a decade-long battle with cancer. She was 77.
She first gained global renown during the sixties for her Vietnam War reporting and her forthright interviews with the world’s most prominent people. Fallaci was often dubbed “the journalist to whom virtually no world figure would say no.” Among many others, she interviewed Ayatollah Khomeni, Yasir Arafat, Golda Meir, Indira Gandhi, Nguyen Van Thieu, Richard Nixon, and Henry Kissinger.
A glamorous figure with “Sophia Loren” looks and confidence, Fallaci believed she had the obligation to always ask “the toughest questions, cutting to the heart of the hardest issues.”
“How do you swim in a chador?” she asked Khomeni in 1979, not long after he came to power in Iran in 1979. “How can you say that you’re not a crook now?” she asked Nixon following Watergate.
That kind of courageous, plain-spoken honesty earned her a whole new generation of admirers--and not a few detractors--after she published two books about Islam, terrorism, and the future of Western Civilization. The books, The Rage and the Pride and The Force of Reason were stunning diatribes against the barbaric character of Islam, the Koran, and the unilateral capitulation of Western society to Muslim cultural incursions. “Europe is no longer Europe,” she charged. “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.”
Her candor earned her a fatwah from Muslim clerics around the world and indictments in two European countries, including her native Italy, for “religious hate crimes.” Unlike Salman Rushdie however, Fallaci refused to cower in hiding. She simply carried on as she had for the previous four decades: “telling it as I see it.”
But, it was not just celebrities and Muslims that she angered. She was, it seemed, an equal opportunity offender. Her stunning 1976 pro-life novel, Letter to a Child Unborn gained her scorn from ideological Feminists. And her political thriller, Inshallah stung the political Left.
For a woman who mercilessly prodded others into self-revelation, Fallaci always managed to resist the temptation to talk about herself. “To speak of oneself means to lay bare one’s own soul, expose it like a body to the sun,” she once told a reporter. “To lay bare one’s own soul is not at all unlike taking off one’s brassiere on a crowded beach!’’
A life-long Atheist, in her final years Fallaci warmed to the Christian faith saying that “a bold, masculine Christianity was Western Civilization’s unique heritage, and perhaps its only future hope.”