The former anti-fascist resistance fighter and war correspondent was accused of racism when she wrote “The Rage and the Pride” shortly after the September 11 attacks in the United States.
The book sold more than one million copies in Italy and topped bestseller charts elsewhere in Europe. In France, one group unsuccessfully attempted to have distribution stopped and two others called for a warning to be included on the book.
In a later book, “The Force of Reason”, Fallaci wrote that the Islamic faith “sows hatred in the place of love and slavery in the place of freedom”.
Fallaci accused Europe of having sold its soul to what she described as an Islamic invasion and took the Catholic Church to task for being what she considered too weak before the Muslim world.
An Italian judge ordered Fallaci to stand trial on charges she defamed Islam in the second book. The case began in June but was never completed.
Last year, she described Islam as “an enemy in the house” of the West and said it was “incompatible with democracy”.
Fallaci joined Italy’s anti-fascist resistance as a teenager during the Second World War Two before becoming a war correspondent in Vietnam, the Middle East, and Latin America at a time when few women braved the front lines. In 1968 she was shot during student demonstrations in Mexico
Fallaci’s confrontational style of exchanges with 20th century world leaders, such Golda Meir- the Israeli prime minister, the Shah of Iran, Indira Gandhi – the Indian prime minister, and others best defined her work.
“[Islam] sows hatred in the place of love and slavery in the place of freedom”.
“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 of her entitled “The Agitator”.
During an interview with Henry Kissinger, the former US secretary of state, she needled him until he agreed that the Vietnam War was “useless”.
Kissinger later wrote that her interview with him was “the single most disastrous conversation I have ever had with any member of the press”.
According to Fallaci’s own anecdotes, she had a shouting match with the late Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat and opened an interview with Muammar al-Qadhafi, the Libyan leader, by ridiculing his political manifesto as “so small and insignificant it fits in my powder puff”.
Fallaci described herself as an atheist Christian but had a private audience with Pope Benedict XVI last year at the papal residence of Castel Gandolfo. Fallaci had praised the pontiff for his statements urging Europeans to recognise their Christian heritage.
Fallaci died in her home town of Florence after living in New York. She had been diagnosed with breast cancer several years ago.