The Force of Reason
Amir Taheri, Asharq Alawsat: Book Review
Europe is facing a great conspiracy to destroy its civilisation, enslave its peoples, and use it as a base for the conquest of the world. The conspiracy is hatched by Muslims with a diabolical strategy in which mass immigration to Europe and high birth rates once they have settled there are the key weapons.
That, in summary, is the theory that Italian journalist and author Oriana Fallaci exposes in her new book "The Force of Reason". This is a sequel to her 2002 book, "The Rage and The Pride", which amounted to an outpouring of deeply felt anger against Muslims in Europe. At the time the book was criticised for its unbridled emotionalism and lack of intellectual discipline. This is partly why Ms Fallaci decided to re-visit the polemic, this time with what she claims is arguments "based on reason." READ MORE
Soon, however, the reader of "The Force of Reason" realises that he is confronted with a cascade of emotions as raging, as confused, and as removed from reason as those expressed in Ms Fallaci's previous book. The difference is that this time Ms Fallaci has translated her own Italian text into English, thus producing a prose that, though packed with colourful emotional charge, adds to the confusion.
One possible reaction to this tsunami of anger is to dismiss it as the ravings of a disillusioned Italian intellectual who, now in exile in the United States, feels that her native land is overrun by hordes of invaders bringing with them an alien culture. Returning to Italy as a tourist, Fallaci is horrified by the changes that her homeland has experienced in her lifetime, especially in the past three decades. Europe, she says, is losing its Christian heritage while its democratic structures are under threat. Worse still, it is losing self-confidence along with the universal aspirations of the culture it created over 1000 years of revolution, war, economic development, and reform.
All that may or may not be true. What is true is that Europe has experienced many changes since the 1940s when Ms Fallaci, then in her teens, played a cameo role in the anti-fascist resistance movement in Italy. Some of these changes may be depressing for those who tend to prefer the ideal to the real. The question is: to what extent are these changes due to the growing Muslim presence in Europe, not to mention an "Islamist conspiracy" .
One might agree with Fallaci that Europe is under threat, as it has always been, from forces that Ian Buruma has described as "Occidentalist". These are forces that have always tried to undermine the four pillars of European system, that is to say: Christianity, capitalism, democracy, and individualism as opposed to collectivism.
If in ancient Greece Sparta and its admirers, including Socrates as portrayed by Plato, represented the "Occidentalist" option, the more recent collectivist ideologies, notably Fascism, Nazism and Communism, should be regarded as modern enemies of European culture. They all regard Christianity as an alien, i.e. Jewish, import, dismiss democracy as a fraud, reject capitalism as a system of exploitation, and seek to dissolve the individual in the broader identity of nation, race or class.
While Fascism, Nazism and Communism in its many epiphanies, could no longer be regarded as major ideological currents in Europe, it would be foolish to ignore the nefarious effect that their toxic remains still have on the European atmosphere. Some of those toxic remains have sought a new home in the so-called mutlicultralist Weltanschauung according to which European culture is one of countless cultures of equal worth and value and thus lacking the legitimacy to claim the position of primus inter pares in the old continent.
What is happening, part of which has driven Ms Fallaci into uncontrollable rage, is the result not of a Muslim conspiracy but of a strategy developed by the old native enemies of the European model. The multicultural and politically correct tribe, overwhelmingly composed of atheists, is using the growing Muslim communities in Europe as a new weapon with which to pursue its old war against the European system.
Without realising it, Fallaci demonstrates this point convincingly.
She shows that in every case involving Muslims doing something that Europeans might not like, the multicultural and politically correct elite played the leading role. For example, Fallaci is enraged that so many mosques are built in localities long associated with Christianity in Italy. However, she fails to mention that in none of the cases she enumerates Muslims were in a position to impose a decision. The building permits for the mosques were always issued by left-wing mayors and municipalities dominated by atheists who wished to settle scores with the Catholic Church by using Muslims as an excuse. In some cases, as that involving the building of a huge mosque and Islamic centre in a beauty spot in northern Italy, there was no demand from the local Muslim community which numbered only 33 individuals. It was the left-wing mayor who, motivated by his hatred of the Catholic Church, wanted the new project. Fallaci is especially angry about a mosque built in Rome supposedly to dilute the city's association with Catholicism. Once again, she fails to remind the reader that it was Rome's Communist-dominated municipality that authorised the mosque in the context of an old feud with the Vatican.
Fallaci makes a passing reference to the Anti-War Campaign, formed to oppose the liberation of Iraq in 2003. Again, she does not bother to tell the reader that the leadership of the campaign, while including some Islamist militants, is dominated by the traditional anti-West, more specifically anti-American, groups. The Anti-War Campaign did not oppose the liberation of Iraq because Saddam Hussein was a Muslim ruler, which he certainly was not. Nor does she seem to be aware of the fact that the most of the radical Islamist groups in Europe are financed by subsidies from the European Union rather than voluntary donations from ordinary Muslims.
To sum up, Fallaci is right in reminding the Europeans that their way of life is threatened by its enemies. She is also right in saying that most Islamists share the dislike of the European model, and the West in general, with Fascists, Nazis, Communists and other collectivists. However, she is wrong in singling out Islamists, let alone ordinary Muslim immigrants as the principal threat to the European civilisation.
No one familiar with history would share Fallaci's prediction of the death of the European civilisation. True, Europe today suffers from a demographic disadvantage that, by theoretical extrapolation, presages the "disappearance" of several nations, notably Italy. Nevertheless, speculations based on population projections have always proved wrong, starting with Robert Malthus's initial prophecies about a global demographic explosion.
Fallaci's claim that Muslims wish to rule Europe is also hard to take seriously. Like Christianity, Islam has universal pretensions and hopes to one day convert all nations to the faith of the Koran.
That, however, does not mean that there is a secret Muslim organisation plotting to achieve that goal against the wishes of the rest of humanity. The evidence that Fallaci offers of an alleged plot is flimsy to say the least. She mentions the Association for the Return of Andalusia to Islam as an organisation dedicated to the re-conquest of Spain by Muslims. However, that association, founded in 1975, was created by Communists of Spanish birth and blood with not a single Muslim being involved. Another "evidence" of a Muslim conspiracy to re-take Spain, according to Fallaci, is a scheme by " the scandalously rich Sultan of Sharjah" to buy an increasing chunk of Spanish land. There is, of course, no Sultan in Sharjah, and if there were one, he could not be scandalously rich and, certainly, not rich enough to buy Spain.
The only call for the revival of Andalusia in one form or another has come from the French Islamologist Gilles Kepel who has argued in favour of a " New Andalusia" in which Muslims and Christians will share Europe and will together develop a new civilisation based on their common heritage. Kepel, an unofficial advisor to President Jacques Chirac, is certainly not a convert to Islam.
Another "evidence" Fallaci cites is a supposed " secret plan for all-out war against the West" worked out by the late Palestinian guerrilla leader Georges Habache in 1971. The trouble is that Habache, a Marxist-Leninist by ideology, was a Christian by birth and could hardly be regarded as the architect of an Islamic plot to conquer of the world.
Fallaci also claims that the late Algerian President Houari Boumedienne developed a policy aimed at encouraging Algerian women to produce numerous children some of whom could then be exported to Europe as vanguards of a Muslim conquest of the continent through immigration. The truth is that Boumedienne introduced the first family planning programmes in Algeria and did all he could to stop Algerian birth rates from spiralling out of control. His efforts began to produce results from the early 1990s. Even then it is difficult to regard Boumedienne, who saw himself as a champion of Third World socialism, as a Muslim Ghazi trying to conquer Europe.
So persuaded is Fallaci that all evil in the world comes from Islam that she attributes many acts of terrorism committed by non-Muslims to "Islamic fanatics". For example, the Palestinian-American Sirhan Bishara Sirhan who murdered Senator Robert Kennedy in 1968 was a Christian not a Muslim. Wadi Haddad, the mastermind of aircraft hijacking operations, was also a Christian and a leftist, not a soldier of Islam. Even when the terrorists happen to be Muslims, as is the case with Osama bin Laden, Ayman al-Zawahiri and Abu-Mussab al-Zarqawi, it is clear that they represent very small groups on the outer fringes of radical Islamism.
Although a journalist with almost 60 years of experience, Fallaci is often careless with her facts and makes outlandish claims.
For example, she claims that 85 per cent of blacks in America have converted to Islam, whereas the true figure is just under 10 per cent. Even then to regard the so-called Nation of Islam, led by Louis Farrakhan, as part of mainstream Islam would require a leap of imagination. Fallaci claims that film star Denzel Washington and pop singer Michael Jackson, both blacks, have converted to Islam to find a cover for questionable life-styles. She is specially castigating about Jackson for his alleged efforts to become white. ( To my knowledge neither Washington nor Jackson are Muslim converts.)
She also claims hat 50 per cent of all births in the French port city of Marseilles are Muslims. The registrar of births in Marseilles, however, tells us that the true figure is around 14 per cent.
Fallaci says the Palestinians in Lebanon turned the Maronites into a minority by producing too many babies. She forgets that some Palestinians are Christians and that Lebanon's demographic pattern changed because of high birth rates among Shi'ites combined with high immigration by Christians.
She blames Muslims for the murder of Dutch politician Wim Fortuyn, who was, in fact, killed by a Christian Dutchman, not a Muslim.
At times Fallaci lops accusations at people without a shred of evidence. For example, she labels the exiled Algerian politician Rabah Kebir as a "terrorist" although he was never involved in any act of terrorism. Similarly, the former Taliban Foreign Minister Mullah Ahmad Wakil Mutuwakkil, was certainly not personally involved in stoning any women to death, as Fallaci claims.
Fallaci is particularly angry at ethnic Europeans who covert to Islam, and notes that 95 per cent of them have leftist political backgrounds. However, she does not realise the significance of her observation, i.e. that many European converts to Islam do so for ideological rather than religious reasons. With the fall of Communism, some former European leftists see Islam as the new challenger to the "Capitalist-Imperialist West" led by the United States. This, however, has little to do with Islam as a faith.
Fallaci makes a number of bizarre claims.
For example, she wants us to believe that the boxing champion Muhammad Ali, a covert to Islam, once wanted to have her murdered by his bodyguards because of an angry exchange. Anyone who knew the late Ali would know that this is highly unlikely.
She also claims that in August 1975 the then Saudi Oil Minister Zaki Yamani tried to persuade her to wear hijab and accompany him for a weekend in Mecca. Fallacy then reports that Yamani's daughter, whom she wrongly names as Maha, was at one point brought in to play the guitar presumably to sweeten the Italian lady to accept the sheikh's offer. Considering that Ms Fallaci was 50 years old at the time, one must assume that the sheikh may have had other motives for wanting to smuggle her into Mecca, which is closed to non-Muslims anyway.
Fallaci has such a low opinion of Muslims that she claims they cannot be taught Dante or Manzoni at Italian schools. That claim, however, is an insult to Dante and Manzoni who, as authors of universal appeal, belong to the entire humanity and not just to a tribe of Italians. By Fallaci's reasoning, one cannot teach Roumi or Hafez to Italian Christian children.
Fallaci's claim that Muslim children cannot cope with mixed-sex schools is also bizarre to say the least. I myself attended a mixed-sex school in Iran as a child in the 1950s as did all of my sisters and brothers, without any of us being traumatised as Ms fallacy seems to believe.
The assumption that Muslims are obsessed by sex is one of the constant themes of this book that is full of references to the human reproductive organs.
Her claim that Muslims birth rates vary between 4/6 and 6/4 per cent is simply wrong. No Muslim community in Europe ever experienced, or could ever experience, such rates of growth.
When it comes to practical policy proposals, Fallaci is at a loss. She says the liberation of Iraq was a mistake, and that even now " we should let Iraqis stew in their juice." She wants Muslim immigrants to be driven out of Europe en masse but does not say how this is to be done and what effects it might have on the economies of the nations concerned.
Some of us may share Fallaci's rage against Islamists who represent a new form of fascism based on a religious vocabulary. But, she would do well to remember that the overwhelming majority of the victims of Islamist Fascism are Muslims who aspire after the freedom and prosperity that Europe has worked for and achieved. In other words, just as a minority of Muslims can become political allies of the anti-West left, many Muslims are potential allies of the liberal and democratic forces in Europe. The important thing is to look for them find them, and speak to them not with a vocabulary of insults but in a language of shared interests.