All human beings are in truth akin;
All in creation share one origin.
When fate allots a member pangs and pains,
No ease for other members then remains.
If unperturbed, another’s grief canst scan,
Thou are not worthy of the name of man.
Saâ€™adi in early 13th century preached humanism and love for human kind that in practice have rarely, if ever, found its way to our hearts, minds and actions. As a true believer in human good, I would continue to believe that hatred, extremes of conflicts and one human-being taking pleasure in the suffering of another is conditioned and often instigated in the service of some wicked interest. History has taught us many a times how humanity has turned against each other in a ruthless and senseless manner, almost always whipped to believe that oneâ€™s fortunes are in the otherâ€™s misfortunes. The usual tool has been creating hysteria, misinformation and generally vilifying the other, based on the otherâ€™s beliefs, race or gender.
Over the past few years Islamophobia seems to have become the order of the day â€“ the intellectuals provide theoretical underpinnings, the media moguls â€˜informâ€™ and â€˜manufacture consentâ€™, the right wing politicians (the great majority of the governments in Europe) bank on the hysteria and rule, while the left continue to provide confusing messages or set back and watch. I have been living in Europe for a rather long time and never felt any different from my peers at school, university, work place or social events. This is unfortunately a thing of the past and something almost unthinkable over the last few years. For instance, the great majority of people I meet since September 2001 would comment â€œbut you are a Muslimâ€, or â€œdo you think terrorism or killing people in the name of God is a good thing?â€ or â€œdo you think womenâ€™s rights are human rights?â€ and so forth. Stereotyping, gross generalisation and extreme prejudice against 24 percent of the worldâ€™s population have become common and accepted practice. But why is it so? What has happened in the past few years to change a large part of the population? I would attempt to provide some answers briefly looking at the hysteria created in Italy. Similar efforts by the media and politicians in Australia and elsewhere provided extremists in Sydney with an effective weapon to attack people of a different colour. I am not saying racism did not exist in Australia before last week but those racist feelings were prompted into action by the intellectuals, politicians and the mainstream media.
Oriana Fallaci, a former Italian journalist and writer now rather old living a lonesome life in an apartment in New York, has been a best seller in Italy over the past few years. She is the darling of the Italian politics from the centre to the extreme right and all lovingly call her â€œLa Fallaciâ€. This old lady has had three main thesis in her writings for a long time but a lot more vocal since September 2001, let me briefly look at each in turn.
(i) There is no such thing as moderate and extremist Islam, the whole lot are extreme and terrorist and should be dealt with as such. She wrote this in an article titled â€œAnger and Prideâ€, published 29 September 2001, in Corriere della Sera, the Italian version of New York Times. In the same article â€œLa Fallciâ€ makes some practical suggestions on how to deal with this menace called Islam for ease of reference. â€œEither you destroy them or Jihad will destroy you and your way of lifeâ€. In other words wipe out 24 percent of the worldâ€™s population, just because they believe in a different God. Looking at the events in Iraq, Afghanistan and Palestine, at least, one has the feeling that the plan is well-under way.
(ii) The Muslims have a well-designed plan to take over the West (whatever the West is) and migration and inter-marriages are their main tools. She further denounces all those inter-marriages and suggests that immigration should be stopped and all intermarriages broken and new ones prevented at all costs. Looks like her suggestions have more or less found their way to mainstream policy. One only has to look at the detention centres in various Italian islands or coastal areas â€“ a revealing case was recorded by a brave Italian journalist from Lâ€™Espresso, Fabrizio Gatti, in September 2005 when he pretended to be an Iraqi Kurd seeking asylum. Another case was when the authorities in the Netherlands packed a large number of asylum seekers from countries like, Afghanistan, Iraq, Somalia, Liberia, Sierra Leone and others into a small cell in Schiphol airport ready to be deported. The cell caught fire and about 14 innocent human beings lost the precious lives they so much wanted to save from oppressions in their home countries. Survivors were testifying that armed guards would not allow the detainees to move out of the cell and the fire brigade arrived after â€œthe fire had done its jobâ€ said one of the fire fighters. The minister of immigration was asked about the incident when bodies were still being counted, she proudly announced â€œ fourteen illegal immigrants died in a fireâ€. Not fourteen innocent souls or human beings or anything human but some different species called â€˜illegal-immigrantsâ€. It probably did not matter much to the asylum seekers as they were being sent to hells created on earth like Iraq, Afghanistan, Somalia, Liberia and other such places as hell was brought upon them right there in Amsterdam. The more dangerous part to this was how the open-minded and multicultural Dutch public received the news, one could not see any major expression of outrage in that country. The same way no major outrage could be seen on the Italian streets over the revelation of torture, humiliation and inhumane treatment of asylum seekers in the island of Lampedusa by Fabrizio Gatti â€“ except for some condemnation by the far left in Italian politics. The Italian Interior Minister said that â€œI challenge any European country who treats immigrants any betterâ€ â€“ rightly so Mr. Minister.
(iii) â€œThere is something quite disgusting about the Arab men, that I cannot standâ€. This is pure and simple racism in its very crude form. There is a hate for an entire race â€“ the Arabs â€“ not any contempt for an ideology, religion or behaviour, but â€˜La Fallaciâ€ hates anything Arab. I am not implying that contempt for an ideology or religion is a good thing at all, quite the contrary. The Lady â€œhates Omar Khayamâ€ the Persian poet 1048-1123, but â€œloves Danteâ€ or anything â€œWesternâ€. Therefore, art, poetry, music and culture has colour, religion and race for the lady.
â€œLa Fallaciâ€ no matter how hateful, racist and barbaric suggesting the annihilation of a quarter of the worldâ€™s population just because they think differently from a thought-yardstick she and her friends have created, is not the real problem. Prof. Noam Chomsky has time and again highlighting the meaning of freedom of speech over the years â€œ …… if you believe in freedom of speech, then you believe in freedom of speech for views you donâ€™t likeâ€. Therefore, one would not take any extraordinary issue with â€œLa Fallaciâ€ but to argue against her wicked designs of epic proportions. Unless of course one is Imam Khomeini (for seeking the death of S. Rushdie) or G.W Bush (for destroying the Al Jazeera Network in Kabul, Baghdad and planning to destroy its headquarters in Qatar), the former expressed an opinion and the latter attempted to tell the truth.
The real danger, however, is the glorification of the lady to the status of a messiah by the mainstream mass media, members of the Italian Senate, Parliament and European Parliament, academics, poets, writers and local politicians. The editors of some of the most popular news papers in Italy, members of Senate, members of parliament and a large number of academics have been campaigning for â€œLa Fallaciâ€ to become Senator for life. No week passes without an article in at least one Daily glorifying the catastrophic ideas and designs of the Lady. Numerous web-sites have been dedicated to the Ladyâ€™s thoughts with known personalities and members of the government usefully drawing up terms of references for a plan of action.
The Lady received the Annie Taylor Award, Centre for the Study of Popular Culture in New York, last week honouring â€œ…. her heroism, valor, and lifetime struggle against oppression and fascism. Since 9/11, Fallaci has been a formidable force in the fight against the greatest threat to Western civilization since the Cold War, Islamofascism.â€ Wrote the Front Page Magazine. Milanâ€™s most prestigious award, Ambrogino Dâ€™Oro, also went to the Lady this week. The Left in various other regions, in particular Tuscany, has been instrumental in blocking various other awards going to someone with very active campaign to kill a quarter of the worldâ€™s population. â€˜La Fallaciâ€™ also had a rather long private audience behind closed doors with the Pope Benedict XVI on 3 September 2005 in his Summer palace outside Rome, probably lobbying the pontiff for his contribution to her cause. On 14 December the Italian President Mr. Ciampi â€œhonouredâ€ the Lady with a significant prize for her â€œbrave work in promoting the Italian cultureâ€.
Six out of the seven Italian television networks (excluding the left leaning Rai 3), two of them public, have been dedicating at least one debate per month glorifying the ideas of a lady proposing to annihilate a quarter of the worldâ€™s population. On Tuesday 22 November La 7, a private TV network, debated â€œLa Fallaciâ€™sâ€ theses in a programme called â€œLâ€™INFEDELEâ€, usually considered an unbiased and moderate programme unless the topic is Israel. One of the participants in the debate was Miss Fiamma Nierenstein on a satellite link from Jerusalem, who is informing the Italian public how the war on terror is going and supposedly giving an unbiased account of events in the Middle East. Miss Nierenstein summing up the supporting arguments proudly announced that â€œ …. La Fallaci may have used some strong language but we all share and support her theses.â€ Nothing wrong with what she says but perhaps a different language could be used, i.e. it is OK to instigate genocide of a large proportion of the worldâ€™s population but perhaps one could call it something else. Miss Nierenstein has written numerous books on anti-Semitism, pre-holocaust European attitude towards Jews and the role of intellectuals and journalists in events leading to holocaust. However, she would not admit that she is being highly instrumental in â€œmanufacturing consentâ€ and whipping the public towards yet another genocide.
Lâ€™INFEDELE programme ended with conclusions, such as â€“ yes Muslim societies are of an inferior culture (Gad Lerner, the presenter), yes Islam is a threat to the values and way of life in the West (Nierenstein and co.), â€˜La Fallaciâ€™ may have used strong language but she echoes a general sentiment (Magdi Allam – vice editor of Corriere della Sera, Renato Farina â€“ vice editor of Libero and Luca Rondoni â€“ a writer and poet), and â€˜La Fallaciâ€™ might be nurturing similar ideas to some of the Muslim fanatics like Bin Laden (Gad Lerner and Bosetti a famous writer). This last remark by the opponents of the Lady in the programme was taken as an â€œinsult to the pride of Italyâ€ according to the editor of Corriere della Sera. Rai 2, a public television channel, organised a follow up prime time TV debate on â€œLa Fallaciâ€ and the fact that Lâ€™INFEDELE had â€œharshly and unduly criticised La Fallaciâ€. The records were put in order and the viewers were told that â€˜La Fallaciâ€™ represented the pride of Italy and expresses a view shared by all.
Contrary to the efforts of mass media the Italian society has another wonderful side as well, which can never be identified with the views expressed by the thought manufacturerâ€™s in this country. However, the other Italy, even if the majority, is rarely heard, usually through rather infrequent demonstrations, which is again represented by the mass media in an extremely negative way and the message is only heard by those attending the demonstrations. The Left in Italy is far too divided and usually incoherent to come up with clear counter arguments or to show sufficient outrage at such catastrophic ideas and plans for the human race.
In Italy and other European countries it has become common to hurl insults at other religions (in particular Islam), race and cultures. It is no longer a taboo to instigate hatred and violence unless, of course, you are of the Middle Eastern origin. Can we afford to remain silent? Under the circumstances, inaction and silence may be just as good as endorsing La Fallaci and friends.
The writer and poet Luca Rondoni in Lâ€™INFEDELE programme continuously asked one question â€“ What values and culture do we represent in the West and what values should we teach our children? No one answered him in the programme but I remember my grandfather, a self-sufficient proud farmer who never lived anywhere but in his beautiful valley, taught me something that I would like to share. Perhaps this might be an answer to Mr. Rondoniâ€™s question, in addition to the 12th century poem by Saâ€™adi above. Imagine this was the opinion held nearly eight centuries ago.
I hold to no religion or creed,
am neither Eastern nor Western,
Muslim or infidel,
Zoroastrian, Christian, Jew or Gentile.
I come from neither the land nor sea,
am not related to those above or below,
was not born nearby or far away,
do not live either in Paradise or on this Earth,
claim descent not from Adam and Eve or the Angels above.
I transcend body and soul.
My home is beyond place and name.
It is with the beloved, in a space beyond space.
I embrace all and am part of all.
Molana Jelaluddin Rumi 1207 – 1273