BOB GARFIELD: We're back with On the Media. I'm Bob Garfield.
BROOKE GLADSTONE: And I'm Brooke Gladstone. The new book by famed Italian journalist Oriana Fallaci is called Anger and Pride, a polemic against Islamic extremism that nevertheless condemns all Muslims with the same vicious words. Anger and Pride has been published and distributed throughout Europe, but in France where expressions of racism are illegal, it faces a legal challenge. A group called The Movement against Racism and for Friendship between People has sued to block its publication. The group cites such passages as her claim that "the sons of Allah multiply like rats." Fallaci also writes quote "You wanted a war. Do you want a war now? Okay. As far as I'm concerned, war it is, to the last breath." Agnes Horriere is a legal advisor to the Movement against Racism and for Friendship between People and she's on the line from Paris -- thanks for coming on.
AGNES HORRIERE: You're welcome.
BROOKE GLADSTONE: Well I'm against racism and for friendship between people, but I'm also against banning books. How do you reconcile the two?
AGNES HORRIERE: Well, in France we have quite a strict legislation what you can say and can't say, and-- racist insult is illegal.
BROOKE GLADSTONE: A little bi-national comparison here. In, in America we have a First Amendment and even-- [BOTH SPEAK AT ONCE]
AGNES HORRIERE: Sure.
BROOKE GLADSTONE: -- if a book were racist, even if the authors proudly proclaimed it to be racist, it can be printed. What precisely are the applicable laws in France?
AGNES HORRIERE: Well in France it's the law on freedom of the press, which prohibits insults, incitation to racist hatred for books, for speeches, public speeches and also privates speeches between two people or private letters.
BROOKE GLADSTONE:Now Fallaci has cited her inalienable right to free expression which apparently is part of the European Union Charter. Doesn't that right prevail in this case?
AGNES HORRIERE: I mean we are before all a human right association and of course the freedom of speech is one of the fundamental human rights but the limit is so and it's racist words and racist ideas -- that limits the freedom of speech. When somebody contests what happened in Nazi camps and con--contents the num-- the number of Jews who were killed during their -those camps, and-- [BOTH SPEAK AT ONCE]
BROOKE GLADSTONE: You're referring to the Holocaust deniers--those - that material-- [BOTH SPEAK AT ONCE]
AGNES HORRIERE: Yes, I am.
BROOKE GLADSTONE: -- has been banned in, in France.
AGNES HORRIERE: Yes.
BROOKE GLADSTONE:I wonder though where the-- these sorts of laws really serve France. Here in America there was some talk of banning the speeches of Osama bin Laden. News networks were asked not to play his speeches and in most cases they haven't, but the speeches were still available, and one of the reasons that they gave to permit this kind of speech is that people ought to know their enemies. In that vein, what would be wrong with the French people hearing the words of this author who you regard as an enemy to civil society?
AGNES HORRIERE: The, the point is not if you can or not express what you think. I mean anybody can express what they think. The point is that this causes injuries! This is inciting people to think that Muslim are all fanatic. I mean it's not the problem if she had said for example that fanatic in religions are dangerous, for example. I mean there is no problem with that. Yes, we can all thing that all-- in any religion when there is a fanatism [sic] it's danger; when you're extremist, it's danger. But here she's thinking of one religion, pointing out facts that are not-- not true.
BROOKE GLADSTONE:But Miss Horriere, basically what you're saying is she's free to say anything statement she'd like that everybody can agree with, but the minute she gets specific and says things that other people won't agree with and will take offense at as people invariably will, then it can't be printed.
AGNES HORRIERE: When there is an illegal act, we are in a country where racism is illegal. Racism is not an opinion. Racism is an illegal act.
BROOKE GLADSTONE: Agnes, thank you very much.
AGNES HORRIERE: You're very welcome.
BROOKE GLADSTONE: Agnes Horriere is a legal advisor to The Movement against Racism and for Friendship between People, and we spoke to her from Paris, France. [MUSIC TAG]
"Original music for On the Media"
by Ben Allison