- The Washington Times - Friday, September 15, 2006

ROME — Oriana Fallaci, a veteran journalist and author who challenged world leaders in uncompromising interviews and drew criticism for her vehement attacks on Islam after the September 11 attacks, has died at 76, officials said yesterday.

Miss Fallaci, who was diagnosed with breast cancer years ago, died overnight in a private clinic in Florence, Italy, said Paolo Klun, an official with the RCS publishing group, which carried Miss Fallaci’s work. Mr. Klun said Miss Fallaci, who lived in New York, had come back to her hometown days ago as her condition worsened.

Miss Fallaci was not married and had no children.

A Florence native and former Resistance fighter, Miss Fallaci started her career in journalism as a teenager. She worked for two decades with L’Europeo, a now defunct news weekly. Her work was often translated and published in the world’s most prestigious publications.

As a war correspondent, Miss Fallaci traveled the world covering hot spots, including Vietnam and the Persian Gulf. In 1968, she was shot as she was covering an army massacre of student protesters in Mexico.

But it was her challenging interviews with world leaders that best defined her work and personality, including with U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat and Iran’s ruling Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini.

Miss Fallaci’s questioning was abrasive and provocative, her writing style impetuous.

“Fallaci’s manner of interviewing was deliberately unsettling: She approached each encounter with studied aggressiveness, made frequent nods to European existentialism (she often disarmed her subjects with bald questions about death, God and pity), and displayed a sinuous, crafty intelligence,” the New Yorker wrote in a profile on her this year titled “The Agitator.”

Miss Fallaci had been reclusive over the past years, spending most of the time in her Manhattan apartment.

But she broke her decade-long, self-imposed silence with a long, brash essay published in Corriere della Sera, Italy’s leading newspaper, shortly after the September 11, 2001, attacks.

The essay was turned into a book, “The Rage and the Pride,” which sold more than 1 million copies in Italy and found a large audience elsewhere in Europe. But it also drew accusations of racism and inciting hatred against Muslims.

In the book, Miss Fallaci wrote that Muslims “multiply like rats” and said “the children of Allah spend their time with their bottoms in the air, praying five times a day.”

A group in France unsuccessfully sought to stop distribution of the book.

Her next essay, “The Strength of Reason,” even caused her to stand trial on charges of defaming Islam. The trial opened in June — she did not appear in court — and was still going on.

In indicting her last year, an Italian judge cited a passage of the book that reads: “To be under the illusion that there is a good Islam and a bad Islam or not to understand that Islam is only one … is against reason.”

“I have expressed my opinion through the written word through my books, that is all,” Miss Fallaci said after the indictment.

In the book, she accused Europe — which she described as “Eurabia” — of having sold its soul to what she described as an Islamic invasion. It also took the Catholic Church to task for being too weak before the Muslim world.

The current invasion, Miss Fallaci went on to say, is carried out not only by the “terrorists who blow up themselves along with skyscrapers or buses” but also by “the immigrants who settle in our home, and who, with no respect for our laws, impose their ideas, their customs, their God.”

Even though Miss Fallaci called herself an atheist, she met with Pope Benedict XVI last year in a private audience at the summer papal residence of Castel Gandolfo, press reports stated. Miss Fallaci had praised the pontiff for his statements urging Europeans to recognize their Christian heritage.



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