I had to read this dispatch by a Rome correspondent for The Economist a few times to see if I had missed anything: some hint of parody or that refined British sense of irony perhaps. Alas, the report was just as humorless, shrill, and petulantly PC as I had thought. The subject is author Oriana Fallaci, famed Italian journalist and author of a few books that challenge the prevailing notions of Islam ("religion of peace"; "a few extremists don't speak for the vast body of believers"; etc.). Fallaci is subject to prosecution under an Italian law against insults to religion, and she has been embroiled in similar disputes in France and elsewhere. So now pay careful attention to how the writer chooses to frame the story:
There is nothing al-Qaeda would like more than for Europeans to turn on Muslims in their midst, uniting fundamentalist militants with those who are neither fundamentalist nor militant. In that sense, Osama bin Laden won yet another victory this week with the publication of another hate-filled, anti-Islamic diatribe by an Italian writer who has become noted for such diatribes: Oriana Fallaci. Over the past three years, the 76-year-old Ms Fallaci has carved out a role as the voice of what might be a new European racism -- were race, not religion, her primary cause.
Lest readers think I'm yanking it out of context, that's how the piece begins. And it ends with a shot across the bow to anyone who would have the audacity to reframe this as a free-speech issue:
Some support for her is purely libertarian, based on the right to express opinions even if they are offensive, incendiary and blasphemous. But a lot also reflects sympathy with her views. Paradoxically, such sympathy is often expressed by the same people who were most impressed by Britain's measured reaction to the London bombings. And yet that reaction reflected in large degree a belief in the virtue of the same multiculturalism that Ms Fallaci and her friends so despise.