Celebrate tolerance, or you're dead
Oriana Fallaci appeals to Europe to save itself. Good luck
MARK STEYN | Apr 28, 2006
Over in Sweden, they've been investigating the Grand Mosque of Stockholm. Apparently, it's the one-stop shop for all your jihad needs: you can buy audio cassettes at the mosque encouraging you to become a martyr and sally forth to kill "the brothers of pigs and apes" -- i.e. Jews. So somebody filed a racial-incitement complaint and the coppers started looking into it, and then Sweden's chancellor of justice, Goran Lambertz, stepped in. And Mr. Lambertz decided to close down the investigation on the grounds that, even though the porcine-sibling stuff is "highly degrading," this kind of chit-chat "should be judged differently -- and therefore be regarded as permissible -- because they were used by one side in an ongoing and far-reaching conflict where calls to arms and insults are part of the everyday climate in the rhetoric that surrounds this conflict."
In other words, if you threaten to kill people often enough, it will be seen as part of your vibrant cultural tradition -- and, by definition, we're all cool with that. Celebrate diversity, etc. Our tolerant multicultural society is so tolerant and multicultural we'll tolerate your intolerant uniculturalism. Your antipathy to diversity is just another form of diversity for us to celebrate.
Diversity-wise, Europe is a very curious place -- and I mean that even by Canadian standards. In her latest book, The Force of Reason, the fearless Oriana Fallaci, Italy's most-read and most-sued journalist, recounts some of her recent legal difficulties with the Continental diversity coercers. The Federal Office of Justice in Berne asked the Italian government to extradite her over her last book, The Rage and The Pride, so she could be charged under Article 261b of the Swiss Criminal Code. As she points out, Article 261b was promulgated in order to permit Muslims "to win any ideological or private lawsuit by invoking religious racism and racial discrimination. 'He-didn't-chase-me-because-I'm-a-thief-but-because-I'm-a-Muslim.' " She's also been sued in France, where suits against writers are routine now. She has had cases brought against her in her native Italy and, because of the European Arrest Warrant, which includes charges of "xenophobia" as grounds for extradition from one EU nation to another, most of the Continent is now unsafe for her to set foot in. What's impressive is the range of organized opposition: the Islamic Centre of Berne, the Somali Association of Geneva, the SOS Racism of Lausanne, and a group of Muslim immigrants in Neuchâtel, just to name a random sampling of her Swiss plaintiffs. After the London bombings and the French riots, the commentariat lined up to regret that European Muslims are insufficiently "assimilated." But, in fact, at least in their mastery of legalisms and victimology, they're superbly assimilated. One might say the same of the imam who took my chums at The Western Standard to the Alberta Human Rights Commission over their publication of the Danish cartoons.
Racked by cancer, Oriana Fallaci spends most of her time in one of the few jurisdictions in the Western world where she is not in legal jeopardy -- New York City, whence she pens magnificent screeds in the hope of rousing Europe to save itself. Good luck with that. She writes in Italian, of course, but she translates them herself into what she calls "the oddities of Fallaci's English," and the result is a bravura improvised aria, impassioned and somewhat unpredictable. It's full of facts, starting with the fall of Constantinople in 1453, when Mehmet II celebrated with beheading and sodomizing, and some lucky lads found themselves on the receiving end of both. This section is a lively read in an age when most westerners, consciously or otherwise, adopt the blithe incuriosity of Jimmy Kennedy's marvelous couplet in his 1950s pop hit Istanbul(Not Constantinople):
Why did Constantinople get the works?
That's nobody's business but the Turks.
Signora Fallaci then moves on to the livelier examples of contemporary Islam -- for example, Ayatollah Khomeini's "Blue Book" and its helpful advice on romantic matters: "If a man marries a minor who has reached the age of nine and if during the defloration he immediately breaks the hymen, he cannot enjoy her any longer." I'll say. I know it always ruins my evening. Also: "A man who has had sexual relations with an animal, such as a sheep, may not eat its meat. He would commit sin." Indeed. A quiet cigarette afterwards as you listen to your favourite Johnny Mathis LP and then a promise to call her next week and swing by the pasture is by far the best way. It may also be a sin to roast your nine-year-old wife, but the Ayatollah's not clear on that.
Kinky as this is, it has nothing on Fallaci's next circle of cultural diversity -- the weirdly masochistic pleasure European leaders get out of talking themselves down and talking Islam up. Beginning with the German foreign minister Hans-Dietrich Genscher at the 1983 Hamburg Symposium for the Euro-Arab Dialogue, Signora Fallaci rounds up a quarter-century's worth of westerners who've insisted that everything you know was invented by Islam: paper, medicine, sherbet, artichokes, on and on and on . . .
"Always clever, the Muslims. Always at the top. Always ingenious. In philosophy, in mathematics, in gastronomy, in literature, in architecture, in medicine, in music, in law, in hydraulics, in cooking. And always stupid, we westerners. Always inadequate, always inferior. Therefore obliged to thank some son of Allah who preceded us. Who enlightened us. Who acted as a schoolteacher guiding dim-witted pupils."
This, it seems to me, is the most valuable contribution of Oriana Fallaci's work. I enjoy the don't-eat-your-sexual-partner stuff as much as the next infidel, but the challenge presented by Islam is not that the cities of the Western world will be filling up with sheep-shaggers. If I had to choose, I'd rather Mohammed Atta was downriver in Egypt hitting on the livestock than flying through the windows of Manhattan skyscrapers. But he's not. And one reason why westernized Muslims seem so confident is that Europeans like Herr Genscher, in positing a choice between a generalized "Islam" and "the West," have inadvertently promoted a globalized pan-Islamism that's become a self-fulfilling prophecy. After all, Germany has Turks, France has Algerians, Britain has Pakistanis, the Netherlands has Indonesians. Even though they're all Muslims, the differences between them have been very significant: Sunni vs. Shia, Arab Islam vs. the more moderate form prevailing in Southeast Asia.
Once upon a time we used to understand this. I've noticed in the last few years that, if you pull any old minor 19th-century memoir off the shelf, the en passant observations about Islam seem more informed than most of the allegedly expert commentary that appeared in the year after 9/11. For example, in Our Crisis: Or Three Months at Patna During the Insurrection of 1857, William Tayler wrote, "With the Soonnees the Wahabees are on terms of tolerable agreement, though differing on certain points, but from the Sheahs, they differ radically, and their hatred, like all religious hatred, is bitter and intolerant. But the most striking characteristic of the Wahabee sect, and that which principally concerns this narrative, is the entire subservience which they yield to the Peer, or spiritual guide."
Mr. Tayler, a minor civil servant in Bengal, was a genuine "multiculturalist." That's to say, although he regarded his own culture as superior, he was engaged enough by the ways of others to study the differences between them. By contrast, contemporary multiculturalism absolves one from knowing anything about other cultures as long as one feels warm and fluffy toward them. After all, if it's grossly judgmental to say one culture's better than another, why bother learning about the differences? "Celebrate diversity" with a uniformity of ignorance. Had William Tayler been around when the Islamification of the West got under way and you'd said to him there was a mosque opening down the street, he'd have wanted to know: what kind of mosque? Who's the imam? What branch of Islam? Old-school imperialists could never get away with the feel-good condescension of PC progressives.
Here's Tayler again: "The tenets originally professed by the Wahabees have been described as a Mahomedan Puritanism joined to a Bedouin Phylarchy, in which the great chief is both the political and religious leader of the nation."
Just so. In 1946, Col. William Eddy, the first U.S. minister to Saudi Arabia, was told by the country's founder, Ibn Saud: "We will use your iron, but you will leave our faith alone."
William Tayler might have questioned whether that was such a great deal. The House of Saud used the Americans' "iron" to enrich themselves and export the hardest, most unyielding form of Islam to the Balkans and Indonesia and Britain and North America.
This resurgent Islam -- promoted by a malign alliance between Europe and the Saudis -- is a much better example of globalization than McDonald's. In Bangladesh and Bosnia, it's put indigenous localized Islams out of business and imposed a one-size-fits-all Wahhab-Mart version cooked up by some guy at head office in Riyadh. One way to reverse its gains would be with a kind of antitrust approach designed to restore all the less threatening mom 'n' pop Islams run out of town by the Saudis' Burqa King version of globalization. If a 21st-century William Tayler is unlikely, perhaps Naomi Klein could step into the breach.
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