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Italian writer's hatred of Islam has roots in medieval Europe

January 23, 2003
The Iranian

The tragic events of September 11 have revived old forgotten fears stored in the recesses of Western minds, namely the nightmarish images inspired by Muslim armies advancing in the heart of Europe in the 8th century. To Europeans of the Middle Ages, Islam appeared as a warlike faith which threatened to engulf all their lands and destroy their religion and their way of life. They used the word "Mahound" -- a corruption of Muhammad -- to designate the devil!

Bin Laden's terrorist attacks in the name of Islam have revived ancient feelings and triggered an anti-Islamic groundswell among ordinary people in the West. Efforts by governments, as well as experts, to distinguish fanatic activists from the bulk of believers have failed to slow the tide. Hence the over-reaction of some law-enforcement and immigration agents, as well as private citizens against people with Middle Eastern features.

To be sure, militant Islamic fundamentalism which is has been on the rise since the 1980s constitutes a real danger and the United States and its allies are justly conducting an all-encompassing war against it and the countries that help or harbor its operatives. But those Westerners who add fuel to the fire by spreading irrational rage against Muslim immigrants are no less dangerous than the terrorists themselves.

In that context , Oriana Fallaci's name is gaining almost as much fame as that of bin Laden . The continuing success of her best-seller, The Rage and the Pride, illustrates the medieval roots of irrational hatred of Islam felt by many Westerners, including some well-known statesmen such as the former French president Giscard d'Estaing and other European authorities who recently rejected Turkey's membership in the EU, despite the longstanding participation of that country in NATO.

Such irrational reactions amount to discrimination (if not racism) that contradicts democratic and human rights principles developed by the West. I shall call this phenomenon of self-denial of modern advanced values: Fallacism. (After all, fascism was born in Ms. Fallaci's country of origin.)

Bin Ladenism and similar Islamic (or other religious) fundamentalisms present common traits with fascism. They promote hatred of "aliens". Bin Laden and his ilk call on Muslims to wage war against "infidels" in general and the United States in particular . Their discourses tend to revive in the unconscious of Muslims the forgotten memories of the Crusades.

We must denounce and reject both Binladenism and Fallacism. As humanity winds its way in these early years of the 21st century toward a new global orde, is it not high time to discard hatred and intolerance and replace them with cooperation and understanding ?


Fereydoun Hoveyda is a senior fellow at the National Committee on American Foreign Policy and former Iranian ambassador to the UN before the 1979 revolution. He is the author of The Broken Crescent.The Threat of Militant Islamic Fundamentalism (Praeger 1999). To learn more about the Hoveydas, visit their web site.

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