Monday, January 23, 2017

When a Feminist Threw Off Her Chador While Interviewing a Muslim Leader: "I'm going to take off this stupid, medieval rag right now. There. Done."

Oriana Fallaci in 1963, with ever-present tape recorder and cigarette

Oriana Fallaci was arguably the premier interview journalist (male or female) of her time. Her Interview with History (1976), a compilation of her most famous interviews from the 1960's and 70's, was an almost required accessory for liberal coffee tables.

Fallaci self-identified as a feminist and indeed lived a sort of ideal feminist life as a successful, independent and outspoken writer, speaking truth to (usually male) power.

Most of her targets were "right-wing" leaders and governments. Famously, she had a romantic relationship with a leading member of the underground resistance during the dictatorship of the Greek Colonels.

But by the time she died in 2006, she was vilified by most of the left, including the "official" feminist movement.

What happened?

Not much happened with Fallaci. It's true that at the end of her life she became more socially conservative on some issues, opposing abortion, for example. But the main thing is that she came to be identified as one of Italy's foremost opponents to Islam and the Islamization of the West.

Her views on Islam hadn't really changed. You can see the outlines of them in her interview with the Ayatollah Khomeini, below.

Rather, it was the left, and along with it, the feminist movement that had changed.

On the left, while it's true that there had always been an element that romanticized "third-world" ideologies and certain sorts of authoritarian movements, for a time those were kept in check by a general libertarianism, albeit its left-wing version. But over the years, as we we all know, most of that libertarian commitment faded.

The left used to champion free speech. Gradually it came to stand for censorship.

The left used to extoll the use of reason against all monotheistic religions (including Islam). That evolved into a hostility almost exclusively towards orthodox Christianity.

At the same time, feminism become less about "women's issues" per se, and much more about adhering to and promoting the entire leftist line. Today, for example, you can be fervently "pro-choice" but be drummed out of the movement if you happen to be a contrarian on, say, the climate change issue.

Or if you are opposed to Islam.

As a Catholic, I obviously wouldn't agree with much of the leftist or feminist agenda of the 1970's. But there was a consistency, principle and, yes, honesty to it which the current leftist and feminist movements lack. In addition, back then, to be accepted as a member of either movement, you didn't have to follow the party line on everything. You could be Nat Hentoff (a social-justice activist and writer who opposed abortion).

No more.

Fallaci was disowned by the left. But in her last years she was adopted and welcomed by the anti-Islamization political opposition. She described herself as a "Christian-atheist," meaning, I think, that while she never publicly came to Christ or the Church, she came to appreciate what Christian civilization had brought to Europe as well as how much of what it created was at risk.

Read her two seminal books on Islam, The Rage and the Pride (2001) and The Force of Reason (2004). It's sharp stuff. Think of them as two book-length no holds barred interviews with Muhammed.

Then read Interview with History.

The following excerpt is from Fallaci's interview with the Ayatollah Khomeini, eight months after he took power in the 1979 Iranian Revolution. I should say that one almost has sympathy for the aged tyrant as he keeps trying to retire from what has become a quite contentious grilling. "Now that's enough. I am tired, that's enough," Khomeini pleads, towards the end of the interview (shortly after the beginning of the portion quoted, below). But Fallaci keeps at it: "Please, Imam, there are many things I still want to ask you...."

The interview was published in the New York Times on October 7, 1979. This portion comes at about the two-thirds mark:
FALLACI: Death to Bakhtiar also (a transitional figure in the revolution), therefore. Imam Khomeini, haven't you ever forgiven anyone? Have you ever felt pity, sympathy for someone? And while we are at it, have you ever cried?
KHOMEINI: I cry, I laugh, I suffer. Do you think I'm not a human being? With regard to forgiving: I pardoned the majority of those who caused us harm. I granted an amnesty to the police, to the gendarmes, to a lot of people. That is, to those who were not involved in torture or serious crimes. just granted an amnesty to the rebel Kurds. Thus I believe that I have demonstrated pity. But for those that we discussed before, there is no pardon, there is no pity. Now that's enough. am tired, that's enough.
FALLACI: Please, Imam, there are many things I still want to ask you. For example, this chador that they made me put on, to come to you, and which you insist all women must wear. Tell me, why do you force them to hide themselves, all bundled up under these uncomfortable and absurd garments, making it hard to work and move about? And yet, even here, women have demonstrated that they are equal to men. They fought just like the men, were imprisoned and tortured. They, too, helped to make the revolution.
KHOMEINI: The women who contributed to the revolution were, and are, women with the Islamic dress, not elegant women all made up like you, who go around all uncovered, dragging behind them a tail of men. The coquettes who put on makeup and go into the street showing off their necks, their hair, their shapes, did not fight against the Shah. They never did anything good, not those. They do not know how to be useful, neither socially, nor politically, nor professionally. And this is so because, by uncovering themselves, they distract men, and upset them. Then they distract and upset even other
FALLACI: That's not true, Imam. In any case, I am not only talking about piece of clothing, but what it represents. That is, the condition of segregation into which women have been cast once again, after the revolution. The fact that they can't study at university with men, or work with men, for example, or go to the beach or to a swimming pool with men. They have to take a dip apart, in their chadors. By the way, how do you swim in a chador?
KHOMEINI: This is none of your business. Our customs are none of your business. If you do not like Islamic dress you are not obliged to wear it. Because Islamic dress is for good and proper young women.
FALLACI: That's very kind of you, Imam. And since you said so, I'm going to take off this stupid, medieval rag right now. There. Done. But tell me something. A woman such as I, who has always lived among men, showing her neck, her hair, her ears, who has been in war and slept in the front line in the field among soldiers, according to you, is she an immoral, bold and unproper woman?
KHOMEINI: Your conscience knows the answer. I do not judge personal matters, I cannot know whether your life is moral or immoral, whether you behaved properly or not with the soldiers at the front. But I do know that, during my long lifetime, I have always been right about what I said. If this piece of clothing did not exist — the Islamic dress — women could not work in a useful and healthy way. And not even men. Our laws are valid laws.
FALLACI: Even if the law permits man to have four wives, Imam?
KHOMEINI: The law of the four wives is a very progressive law, and was written for the good of women, since there are more women than men. More women are born than men, and more men are killed in war than women. A woman needs a man, so what can we do, since there are more women than men in the world? Would you rather prefer that the excess number of women became whores — or that they married a man with other wives? And let me add another point. Even under the difficult conditions which Islam imposes on a man with two or three or four wives, there is equal treatment, equal affection, and equal time; this law is better than monogamy.
FALLACI: But you are talking about laws and customs that go back 1,900 years ago, Imam Khomeini. Doesn't seem to you that the world has progressed since then? In observance of those laws, you have even resurrected the prohibition against music and alcohol. Tell me, why is it a sin to drink a glass of wine or beer, when you are thirsty or when you're eating? And why is listening to music a sin? Our priests drink and sing — even the Pope. Does this mean the Pope is a sinner?
KHOMEINI: The rules of your priests do not interest me. Islam prohibits alcoholic drinks and that's all. It prohibits them in an absolute way, because drinking makes people lose their heads and impedes clear thinking. Even music dulls the mind, because involves pleasure and ecstasy, similar to drugs. Your music, I mean. Usually your music has not exalted the spirit, it puts it to sleep. And it destructs our youth, who become poisoned by it, and then they no longer care about their country. 
FALLACI: Even the music of Bach, Beethoven, Verdi? 
KHOMEINI: I do not know those names...


  1. Whenever a godless feminist anarchist and a systematic mahometan antichrist engage in a discussion, it quickly becomes rather entertaining.

  2. Wasn't she friends with Pope Benedict? An unseeming papolatry beset even this woman who rejected the faith. Can she be serious when acting incredulous that the Pope could be a sinner? Did she naively think the Ayatollah was going to share her reverence for the pope? Maybe she was just yanking his chain.

  3. Sorry, but this poor woman was lost. Arrogance in her interview with Khomeini was obvious. At one point when she was berating him about the clothing Muslim women are "forced to wear" he told her it was none of her business. That just about summed up the whole thing for me.

    Why is this journalist spoken of in such hushed, reverent tones? Just another pushy broad in my opinion - Christian atheist? Huh? Wife and mother? No! Feminist who got dumped from the club? What a mess. She needs prayers not praise.

  4. Oh, man. With respect, I completely disagree (with all three of you).

    To make just one point. There's a distinction to be made between, say, arrogance and righteousness. Khomeini was a tyrant who had just enslaved millions of Iranians (women and men), putting them under the rule of a dark and wicked ideology. The chador, and its relatives - the hijab and the burka - have nothing to do with modesty. Rather they are about submission. And no, it's not submission to God but to a false and cruel god and to evil men that do evil in its name.

    Was that none of her business as a journalist? Is that none of our business as Catholics?

  5. I admire her. She was brave. That Benedict, before his detention, admired her says a lot. She DID indeed fight for Western rationality.

  6. Yes. And in contrast to the cowardice of many of the obnoxious "journalists" of today, she literally put her life on the line in the interests of the truth. There's nothing un-Catholic about that. Would that we all had such courage. From Wikipedia:

    "In Mexico City, during the 1968 Tlatelolco massacre, Fallaci was shot three times by Mexican soldiers, dragged downstairs by her hair, and left for dead. Her eyewitness account became important evidence disproving the Mexican government's denials that a massacre had taken place."

  7. She was what journalists are SUPPOSED to be -- not the spiteful, partisan, prissy, pearl-clutching, devious little snakes so many of them are today.

  8. I hoped that Fallaci could convert before she died.

  9. This is so timely today! I had to turn off the television tonight after work when we were yet again shown Madonna and her sidekicks shouting obscenities in an attempt to make themselves sound like they matter.
    I doubt any of the protesters we have been unhappily exposed to this past couple of days would even vaguely understand. I wouldn't have done what Fallaci did, and it was important. So I pray for her soul.

  10. Undoubtedly she was brave, and what a contrast to today's talking heads. You can really appreciate real journalism in this interview. We aren't used to it anymore, but getting to the truth is what journalists are supposed to do. They ask uncomfortable questions. That's been forgotten since media is all on board the Leftist train, but now that the Leftists are increasingly out (thank God) we will see it's return as they seek to grill the Trump administration. Unfortunately, that will quickly deteriorate into spinning the narrative. I have stopped listening entirely.
    Quite honestly, for the Marxist Left today (Democrats) truth no longer matters at all.