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My courageous hero: Oriana Fallaci

I envision her as a Viking warrior, whose body is sent to the gods on a fiery barge with all the honors due. Oriana Fallaci was outspoken, courageous, dedicated, talented, passionate and honest – in her personal life and in her writings as a journalist, reporter and novelist.

And now she’s gone.

The call, early Friday morning, brought me the news I dreaded. Oriana Fallaci had died at 3 a.m. in a private clinic in the city of her birth, Florence, Italy. She was 77. She is survived by siblings and their children.

I cried. I felt I knew her and had grown to admire her immensely.

She’d fought cancer for years and I knew her condition had worsened. But I’d hoped she would continue to hang on with the strength of spirit that marked her life. Indeed, despite the ravages of the disease, her spirit was strong and she fought to the end. Oriana Fallaci was never one to give up.

I read her books and I wanted to interview her. I’d been working for more than a year to convince her to be a guest on my KSFO radio program. She didn’t like doing radio; she preferred seeing her interviewer. I wrote her several times and spoke with her representatives. Apparently she was intrigued.

One day, earlier this year as I was leaving for a meeting, I got a phone call. The voice greeted me and said Ms. Fallaci was on the line.

“Now?!” Yes, now.

And we talked. At first she was wary, but then we settled in comfortably and indeed, had a long and good conversation. We spoke of the changes in Italy and across Europe from Muslim immigration and what it means for the future. She told me of terrorists and their effect on the West. She expressed her fears as she saw the same appeasement to Islam taking place in the U.S. as has happened in Europe and how the seeds of our own destruction are planted.

Her voice was deep and passionate, blunt and angry – and pleading, in that she wants people to understand the depth of the threats we face. That was her reason for her newest books – informing and raising the alarm.

Ms. Fallaci was at ease talking with me and I assured her that a radio conversation would be the same. She finally said she wanted to do the interview with me but it would depend on her health – she had good days and bad.

She added that she was facing trial this summer in Bergamo, Italy, charged with defaming Islam in her writing. It wasn’t the first such trial she faced – indeed, she isn’t the first to face similar legal action in Europe. The irony that “free speech” is supposedly guaranteed in the Italian Constitution wasn’t lost on her.

As we ended the call, it was left that we’d be in touch and would arrange the interview; it never came to pass. There was the trial. There was her declining health. Time ran out.

However, I treasure more than I can say the fact I had that private conversation with the woman I now consider a true hero.

Oriana Fallaci indeed was a warrior. As a child and teenager she fought with her father in the Italian resistance against fascism and aided escaped Allied soldiers reach safety. That same courage shows in her writing; she took no prisoners.

Over the more than 30 years of her career as a reporter and foreign correspondent, she was known for her intense and incisive interviews of powerful and controversial world figures, including Ayatollah Khomeini, Yasser Arafat, Moammar Gadhafi, Golda Meir, Deng Xiaopeng and Henry Kissinger, among others.

She reported from the center of world conflicts, including Vietnam and the Persian Gulf, and she was nearly killed after being shot twice during her coverage of Mexican army protests.

But it was in her last books that she demonstrated supreme courage, speaking out fearlessly about a critical threat to the West from militant Islam. Oriana Fallaci had the intellect to bring history, politics, experience and observation to her writings and combine them with her passion for the survival of our civilization.

The first, “The Rage and the Pride,” written after 9/11, was followed by “The Force of Reason.” The third volume of her trilogy, “Oriana Fallaci Interviews Herself and The Apocalypse,” is not yet available.

The two books were worldwide best sellers, having touched a nerve about what is happening in Italy and across Europe as the influx of Muslim immigrants and their culture changes the face of the land. None of this was presented without context. Ms. Fallaci gave the history of Islam’s spread from its inception, illustrating what was done, how and to whom – and how the West fought-back for survival.

She wrote, giving specific examples, of how immigration, legal and not, plus higher Muslim birth rates have forced changes in laws, education, art and religion across Europe.

She also told of the levels of fear each time Muslims were offended and how politicians and even the church capitulate.

One example, from near her home in Tuscany, concerned a Muslim with several wives and a dozen children. Polygamy is illegal, punishable by prison – for Italians.

But not for Muslims. Police told her it was “for reasons of public order.” Translation: fear that enforcing the law would cause disorder. That not-so-subtle Muslim threat of coercion plays out in innumerable events she described.

She told of church desecrations, demands to remove the crucifix from Catholic schools, demands to teach in the languages of the immigrants and demands that Christians not go to class with Muslim children.

Ms. Fallaci wrote of Muslim non-integration into Western culture and the complicity of politicians from both left and right in allowing it to happen – appeasement for fear of causing “offense.”

Muslims were clear in stating what would happen if they were “offended.” Her descriptions of the French riots and other incidents, to say nothing of the 9/11 attacks, made that clear.

Muslims also clearly are angry about her books. There were death threats, phoned, shouted and printed. Booklets defamed her family and urged that she be killed according to the Quran: “To be precise, in the name of four Surahs, according to which before being executed as an infidel-b—- I should be stripped and exposed to unspeakable abuses.”

Newspapers on the left and right attacked her calling her a whore, a hyena, a Taliban and prolifically used the F-word. An art gallery in Milan had a pro-Islam/anti-American exhibit that featured a large picture where “I appear decapitated like the Americans executed with the halal-knife by the head-cutters of Iraq. From the severed neck, a gush of blood that spreads all over. And my eves (very wicked eyes) wide open in terror.”

Oriana Fallaci needed 24-hour police guard in her own country.

Although Italian to the core, she sought exile in the United States in her last years because she was safer here and because she saw the U.S. as the hope of the world. Despite that, she rarely appeared in public and did require protection.

Her last books are explicit, complete and honest depictions of the battle for civilization between Christianity and Islam. She bluntly shows the changes in Italy, across Europe and indeed, around the world from the influx of Muslims into Western countries and the effect of fascist Islamists using terrorism to elicit fear.

For that, Oriana Fallaci was excoriated, ridiculed, lampooned, sued and physically threatened. But she was equally damning of politicians, the church, the culture, as well as liberals and conservatives for their complicity in the spread of militant Islam and with their succumbing to fear and political correctness, which she hated.

Oriana Fallaci said history is repeating itself and the West is being “inert and suicidal.” We’ll only survive if people pay attention, have the courage to speak out and be willing to fight the onslaught.

I doubt we’ll see another like her; she was irreplaceable.

Thank you, Oriana Fallaci, for your life and your work. Now it’s our turn to be courageous and carry on the battle.

I read this once: “What terrifies us about death is not the loss of the future, but the loss of the past. Forgetting is a form of death ever present within life.”

Oriana Fallaci is dead, but her words live on. Do not forget her writings or her warnings. That will honor her extraordinary courage and save our lives, our country and our civilization.

Related special offer:

Oriana Fallaci’s “The Force of Reason”