In The Force of Reason, the controversial Italian journalist and novelist Oriana Fallaci illuminates one of the central enigmas of our time. How did Europe become home to an estimated 20 million Muslims in a mere three decades?
How did Islam go from being a virtual non-factor to a religion that threatens the preeminence of Christianity on the Continent? How could the most popular name for a baby boy in Brussels possibly be Mohammed? Can it really be true that Muslims plan to build a mosque in London that will hold 40,000 people? That Dutch cities like Amsterdam and Rotterdam are close to having Muslim majorities? How was Europe, which was saved by the U.S. in world wars I and II, and whose Muslim Bosnians were rescued by the U.S. as recently as 1999, transformed into a place in which, as Fallaci puts it, “if I hate Americans I go to Heaven and if I hate Muslims I go to Hell?”
In attempting to answer these questions, the author, who is stricken with cancer and has been hounded by death threats and charges of “Islamophobia” (she is due to go on trial in France this June), has combined history with riveting firsthand reportage in a form that reads like a real-life conspiracy thriller.
If The Force of Reason sells a lot of copies, which it almost certainly will (800,000 were sold in Italy alone, and the book is in the top 100 on Amazon), it will be not only because of the heat generated by her topic, but also because Fallaci speaks for the ordinary reader. There is no one she despises more than the intellectual “cicadas,” as she calls them — “You see them every day on television; you read them every day in the newspapers” — who deny they are in the midst of a cultural, political and existential war with Islam, of which terrorism is the flashiest, but ultimately least important component. Nonetheless, to give the reader a taste of what Muslim conquest can be like, in her first chapter, Fallaci provides a brief tour of the religion’s bloodiest imperial episodes and later does an amusing job of debunking some of its more exaggerated claims to cultural and scientific greatness.
The book is also animated by a world-class journalist’s dismay that she could have missed the story of her lifetime for as long as she did. In the 1960s and ’70s, when she was a Vietnam War correspondent and a legendarily ferocious interviewer going mano a mano with the likes of Henry Kissinger and Yasser Arafat, Fallaci was simply too preoccupied with the events of the moment to notice that an entirely different narrative was rapidly taking shape — namely, the transformation of the West. There were clues, certainly. As when, in 1972, she interviewed the Palestinian terrorist George Habash, who told her (while a bodyguard aimed a submachine gun at her head) that the Palestinian problem was about far more than Israel. The Arab goal, Habash declared, was to wage war “against Europe and America” and to ensure that henceforth “there would be no peace for the West.” The Arabs, he informed her, would “advance step by step. Millimeter by millimeter. Year after year. Decade after decade. Determined, stubborn, patient. This is our strategy. A strategy that we shall expand throughout the whole planet.”
Fallaci thought he was referring simply to terrorism. Only later did she realize that he “also meant the cultural war, the demographic war, the religious war waged by stealing a country from its citizens. .?.?. In short, the war waged through immigration, fertility, presumed pluriculturalism.” It is a low-level but deadly war that extends across the planet, as any newspaper reader can see.
Fallaci is not the first person to ponder the rapidity of the ongoing Muslim transformation of Europe. As the English travel writer Jonathan Raban wrote in Arabia: A Journey Through the Labyrinth (1979), in the mid-1970s Arabs seemed to arrive in London almost overnight. “One day Arabs were a remote people .?.?. camping out in tents with camels .?.?. the next, they were neighbors.” On the streets of West London appeared black-clad women adorned with beaked masks that made them look “like hooded falcons.” Dressed for the desert (and walking precisely four steps ahead of the women), Arab men bestrode the sidewalks “like a crew of escaped film extras, their headdresses aswirl on the wind of exhaust fumes.”
Writers far better acquainted with the Muslim world than Raban have been equally perplexed. In 1995, the late American novelist Paul Bowles, a longtime resident of Tangier, told me that he could not understand why the French had allowed millions of North African Muslims into their country. Bowles had chosen to live among Muslims for most of his life, yet he obviously considered it highly unlikely that so many of them could be successfully integrated into a modern, secular European state.