- The Washington Times - Thursday, December 19, 2002

NEW YORK Oriana Fallaci, her once-famous face framed by clouds of smoke curling from a black cigarette, is sitting in her antique-filled Manhattan hide-out, talking about threats against her life.
Mostly they come by phone, she says flat, Arabic-accented voices whispering, "You hide yourself in your house, but we will find you all the same."
At 72, the celebrated Italian author and journalist known for her explosive interviews with world leaders in the 1960s and '70s has broken her silence and, in the interest of fighting back, she says, granted a rare interview.
It is also true that Miss Fallaci has a book to recommend, and that work, "The Rage and the Pride," published in Italy a year ago, has given her a second life. It has made her the new Salman Rushdie, a female counterpart to the British author who satirized Islam in "The Satanic Verses" and then went into hiding after Iran's Ayatollah Khomeini issued a fatwa or death order against him.
No fatwa has been declared for Miss Fallaci, but she is determined to endure the backlash against her stone-hard conviction: that Islam is a blight on the world, a serious threat to a superior Western culture, which does not realize the danger to its existence.
"Troy will burn, Troy will burn," shouts Miss Fallaci from her perch on a beige silk chair, shapely legs and high heels folded beneath her. She is the Cassandra of Homer's Iliad, warning that, like Troy, the West is doomed.
"They say, 'There goes that crazy woman again.'" But Troy will burn because they have no passion, and they conduct this war with fear. If you go on being deaf and blind, you will be dead."
Gesturing to rows of books covering the walls and carpets, she says: "These books, I don't want them burned. I am worried for these books."
"La Fallaci," as she is sometimes referred to in Europe, has a commanding presence. Her slim, petite figure in a black jersey and gray skirt rarely sits still. All opinions must be acted out in a dramatic pantomime, often while standing.
The expressive blue eyes, widened by black eyeliner, recall the stunning looks of her youth. The flowing, dark hair has been replaced with a chignon fastened by a Spanish comb. Large pearl rings and red nail polish flash as she makes a point.
"The Italian police called the FBI and told them to keep an eye on me, but I know how to defend myself. I shoot very well," she says.
"And when the phone calls come, I tell them their mothers, sisters and daughters are all together working in a brothel in Beirut. Strangely enough, they say, 'OK' and hang up," in shock, she suspects.
The Fallaci furor started when she emerged from her seclusion the day the terrorists slammed into the World Trade Center. She wrote a scathing letter to her fellow Italians, exhorting them to wake up to the dangers of Islam. The letter appeared on the front page of the newspaper Corriere della Sera, her longtime employer.
This bombshell eventually led to the book that in Italy alone, home to about 1 million Muslims, has sold more than 1 million copies.
But even as the general public embraced Miss Fallaci's anti-Muslim opinions, the intellectual left pilloried her as a Zionist agent. In France and Switzerland, activist groups went to court in unsuccessful attempts to confiscate it.
"Racist, racist! They have become the new masters of the earth, these sons of Allah," she said in a talk to the American Enterprise Institute in October. Islam cannot be touched, she said, alluding to the political correctness a kind of intellectual terrorism, she says that she believes precludes any criticism of Islam and protects its followers. "They multiply like protozoa to infinity," she said of Muslims.
Her vitriol against the Arab world boiled over into a manifesto against anti-Semitism, which she wrote in spring. Yet even in some Jewish quarters, endorsement has been cautious. Many Jews remember her hearty support for the Palestinian cause in past years. Her strident tone makes some nervous.
"We welcome her turnaround," said Abraham Foxman, national director of the Anti-Defamation League. "Her comments on the Islamic world are in essence true, but the shrill way she expresses herself makes us uncomfortable."
Miss Fallaci was a vocal liberal, if not a leftist, for much of her journalistic career. Her reports from Vietnam drew fire from all directions.
Arnaud de Borchgrave, editor at large for The Washington Times, remembers her from his days covering Southeast Asia.
"She's a liberal icon who is now transmogrified into a not-too-convincing conservative," he said. "The point is we're at war with radical Islam, but she cannot distinguish between mainstream and radical Islam."
Like many European countries inundated with immigrants from Africa and the Middle East in the past 30 years, Italy faces a critical issue, namely assimilation of Muslims into Europe, which Miss Fallaci believes will never happen.
"In the end, every Muslim, with few exceptions, is a fundamentalist because the Koran is what it is," she roars, pausing only to sip a glass of champagne.
Small wonder that when she visited her native Florence in November to face down a demonstration, which she succeeded in blocking, of antiglobalists who despise her, the Italian antiterrorist police watched her every move.
Whether traveling by plane or car, she takes no direct routes. While in New York, she says, detectives from the local precinct with Italian-American names watch out for her informally. But she rarely goes out anyway because of Mayor Michael Bloomberg's anti-smoking laws, which she says leave no place restaurant, movie theater or bar that she can light up. A privileged few, usually longtime friends, come to her home.
"She's one of those fearless people who go out on a limb and then cut it off. But even those who don't agree with her accept the fact that she's courageous," said Pia Lindstrum, daughter of the late movie star Ingrid Bergman, a friend from early in Miss Fallaci's career, when she wrote about films.
Miss Fallaci is well-prepared for this latest battle. As a child, she fought in the underground against the Nazis handy training for someone who would follow war and revolution and along the way produce several books and hundreds of articles.
Ten years ago the silence descended, and with it a duel with breast cancer, an invader she calls "the alien." Then came September 11, 2001.
Those who make the threatening phone calls have miscalculated. Miss Fallaci is back, loud and clear.
"I cannot be intimidated," she says, her raucous voice inviting the enemy in. "Each time they try to scare me, I will write something more ferocious. I will double the dose of my rage and my pride and write more and more against them, for the rest of my life."

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