An Open Letter to Oriana Fallaci
Dear Oriana Fallaci
As a veteran activist of women’s rights, for liberty and equality, as a first hand victim of political Islam, and a veteran fighter against it, as an atheist who is a staunch believer in a secular state and secular education system, as a woman who has fought against the hejab in any form and shape, as a secularist who has defended the latest French secular law to ban the wearing of any conspicuous religious symbols in public schools, as a campaigner for banning the veil for underage girls and banning religious schools, as a campaigner against honour killings, Sharia courts in Canada, Islamism and Islamic terrorism, as a staunch defender of unconditional freedom of expression and criticism who defended the right of those who ridiculed Mohammad in the row over the caricatures, I share some of your beliefs and find others very offensive, and let me make it clear, not to Islam, but to human values, egalitarian and libertarian values which are also part of “European culture”.
When you came to Iran to interview Khomeini, I was fighting against him and the Islamic regime, and for women’s rights, against the hejab, and for freedom. I knew you first and foremost for your interview with the Shah. I admired your courage and frankness then. I feel indignant now when I read some of your comments and your latest interview with Margaret Talbot in the New Yorker. Your justified hatred against Islam and Islamism has been extended to all Moslems and everyone living under Islam. I am sure you do not need anyone to remind you that this is racism. I am bewildered when I read your comments against immigrants and immigration from countries under the rule of Islam, and find this in contrast with the justified pride you take in your history for fighting against Nazi-Fascism.
It seems to me that the hate against Islam has pushed you towards Christianity. You have even visited the Pope asking him to take a stronger stance against Islamism. This I find puzzling. How does an atheist of one religion take refuge in another? Your hate against Islamism and political Islam finds expression in Eurocentrism. Your disapproval for multiculturalism and cultural relativism has led you to defend “western culture”, instead of universal rights and secular, humanitarian, and libertarian values.
As a young girl growing up in Iran, under the rule of Islam, I read western philosophers and writers to educate myself with enlightened principles and values regarding equality, freedom and women’s rights. I chose the libertarian and egalitarian side of Western culture, and I am bewildered why, you an atheist, a fighter against fascism, had to resort to Eurocentrism and racism in order to defend Western culture.
Your defence of a superior culture goes as far as expressing more concern about the beheading of statues of Buddha than about murdered, maimed women and men in Afghanistan whose rights are violated daily, who are victims of political Islam and American militarism. This perplexes me. I found it offensive that a human being who enjoys a freedom-fighter stature in the eyes of many, cares more about the cultural and physical ambiance of her native country than all those men, women and children who are killed, maimed and violated daily in Iraq. It seems that in defence of “your culture” you, a self-professed atheist, in attacking mosques end up defending the church. As a staunch campaigner against terrorism, I feel indignant when I see our “Western” anti Islamist can voice condemnation only of terrorism taking place in the West. All terrorist acts which take place daily in countries under Islam are mentioned at best only in passing. Are people who have, by the draw of a lottery, been born under the rule of Islam not worthy of your attention, passion and rage?
All these become so ironic when one looks deeply into the root of political Islam. When one remembers how the Western governments unleashed this monster on the people of the region, how they created the Mojahedin in Afghanistan in the cold war era, and then helped the Taliban, how in the fear of a leftist revolution in Iran dumped Khomeini on us and helped bring about an Islamic state, when one remembers these recent historical facts, one cannot help but discern a profound sense of hypocrisy and double standard. Sadly the saga of helping political Islam and Islamic terrorism by the Western governments is an ongoing effort. Just look at Iraq! The US and Britain, by invading Iraq, helped Islamists grow monstrously therein. Have you forgotten who the friend of Bin laden was? The tragedy is that as long as this monster was strangling the “native” people, our rage could stay under control, our passion not moved. Those people were not worthy of our passion and compassion!
Western academia and journalists invented and nurtured the concept of cultural relativism, so that on its basis they could justify compulsory veiling, stoning, maiming and torturing of the people under the rule of Islam. That gave justification for turning one’s head while one’s government made deals with those Islamic states. This concept was invented so under the guise of “respect for other cultures” the brutal crimes and violation of human rights will be brushed aside “respectfully”. We have witnessed how European courts have resorted to cultural relativism in defending the deportation of immigrants fleeing the rule of Islam. They have gone as far as stating that the prison conditions in those countries are suitable for those people.
I must state that these arrogant, hypocritical and racist attitudes and policies are an important tool to foster political Islam. If one does not distinguish between the Islamic movement, a reactionary and brutal political movement, and ordinary Moslems who are the first hand victims of this, if one does not distinguish between the oppressor and the oppressed, one becomes an accessory to Islamic brutality.
We must try to understand the root causes of Islamic recruitment among the so-called Moslem communities in the West. The dominant racism in state policies and attitude and systematic marginalization of these communities plus the aggression and militarism of the Western governments led by the US against the people in the Middle East, namely, Palestine and Iraq, have directed the youth in these communities to despair and frustration. The revolt of the “suburb” in France is a vivid and sad example of such policies. By rejecting these communities as part of “us” we leave them at the mercy of the “leaders of the community”, who foster traditionalism, Islamism, sexism, and glorification of the “home land”. These are poisonous brain washings. And I must say that your stance is aiding this process.
I find it so hard to understand that in despising the oppressor and oppressing ideology you come to despise the victims just as much. No sympathy, no compassion for the victims. No rage and passion provoked for these people who live under these inhumane and brutal conditions. It is amazing that in Mexico, witnessing the brutal crushing of a student demonstration and becoming a victim of it, you came to hate the sufferers just as much as the oppressors. So flippantly, you state you hate “Mexicans” and as a result despise the most impressive show of power and solidarity in the US for the rights of immigrants in recent months.
I was enraged by reading your racist comments. I was indignant at sensing your Euro centrism, at your lack of human compassion for millions who fled the rule of Islam and took refuge in the West in the hope of a better life. I share your indignation for the Islamist movement. But I denounce categorically the racism that is openly expressed by you. And last but not least I must state that I defend the unconditional freedom of expression, and condemn the court which is to try you for what you have expressed in your books. One must be free to express any opinions. This is the pillar of a free society.
The chair of Organisation for Women’s Liberation- Iran; Producer and host of TV programmes on New Channel satellite TV, including “No to Political Islam”; Editor of Medusa