A French philosophy teacher yesterday entered his third week in hiding after writing a newspaper comment piece calling the prophet Muhammad a merciless warlord and mass-murderer.
Robert Redeker, 52, who teaches at a suburban Toulouse high school, this week won the support of famous French intellectuals including the philosopher Bernard-Henri Lévy, who warned that death threats against him were an attack on freedom of speech akin to the persecution of Salman Rushdie.
The teacher, whose latest book, Depression and Philosophy, is about to be published, does not shy away from controversy. A member of the board of Les Temps Modernes, a review founded by Jean-Paul Sartre, he criticised French pacifists at the start of the Iraq war.
In a comment piece in Le Figaro on September 19, he said Muhammad was “a merciless warlord, a looter, a mass-murderer of Jews and a polygamist”. He called the Qur’an “a book of incredible violence” and contrasted what he said were Christianity’s peaceful roots and Islam’s violent ones, adding: “Jesus is a master of love, Muhammad a master of hate.”
The case has become a political issue. Philippe de Villiers, head of the far-right Movement for France party, suggested that President Jacques Chirac should shelter Mr Redeker at the Elysée Palace.
Justin Vaisse, author of a new book about Muslims in France, Integrating Islam, told the Guardian he felt obliged to defend the principle of freedom of expression, but added that Mr Redeker’s article stemmed from an “anti-Islam agenda” and was “stupid, politically irresponsible, intellectually inconsistent and very weak and feeble”. The French Human Rights League criticised Mr Redeker’s “nauseating” ideas and “hateful discourse” while condemning the threats against him. “You don’t fight the ideas expressed by Mr Redeker by turning him into a victim,” it said.
France has the largest Muslim population in Europe and is battling to improve community relations and end violence such as the recent defacement of mosques in Quimper and Carcassonne, in which they were painted with swastikas and slogans including “France for the French”.
In the face of Islamist intimidation, what should the free world do?
By Robert Redeker
Le Figaro , 19 September 2006
The reactions provoked by Benoit XVI‘s analysis of Islam and violence are part of the attempt made by that same Islam to stifle the most precious thing the West has, which does not exist in any Muslim country: freedom of thought and expression.
Islam is trying to impose its rules on Europe: the opening of swimming pools at certain hours exclusively for women, the ban on caricaturing this religion, the demand for special dietary provision for Muslim children in cafeterias, the fight for the right to wear the veil at school, the accusation of Islamophobia against free thinkers.
How else to explain the ban on the wearing of the thong at the Paris Beaches this summer? The reason given was odd: the risk of “disturbances to public order”. Did this mean that gangs of frustrated youths might respond violently to the display of beauty? Or was it fear of Islamist demonstrations, by the army of virtue, on the approaches to the Paris Beaches?
Moreover, the non-prohibition of wearing the veil in the street is, because of the disapproval that this prop of women’s oppression provokes, more likely to “disturb public order” than the thong. It is not out of place to believe that this ban represents an Islamisation of the mind in France, a more or less conscious submission to the diktats of Islam. Or, at the very least, that it is the result of the insidious Muslim pressure on thought: even those who protest against the introduction of a John Paul II Square in Paris do not oppose the construction of mosques. Islam is attempting to force Europe to bend to its vision of humanity.
As in the past with Communism, the West finds itself under ideological surveillance. Islam presents itself, in the image of defunct communism, as an alternative to the western world. In the manner of communism in the past, Islam, in order to conquer the spirit, plays on the heartstrings. It prides itself on a legitimacy which troubles the western conscience, with its attentiveness to the Other: to be the voice of the oppressed of the planet. Yesterday, the voice of the poor claimed to come from Moscow, today it comes from Mecca! Again today, intellectuals embody the vision of the Qur’an, just as yesterday they embodied the views of Moscow. They excommunicate people for Islamophobia, just as yesterday they did for anti-communism.
In the openness to the Other, which is specific to the West, a secularisation of Christianity is demonstrated, the basis of which can be summarised as follows: the Other must always go before me. The Westerner, the heir to Christianity, is the one who lays bare his soul. He runs the risk of appearing weak. With the same passion as communism, Islam treats generosity, open-mindedness, tolerance, gentleness, freedom of women and of morality, democratic values, as signs of decadence.
These are the weaknesses that it seeks to exploit, by means of “useful idiots”, those with good consciences imbued with fine sentiments, in order to impose the Qur’anic order on the Western world itself.
The Qur’an is a book of extraordinary violence. Maxime Rodinson states, in the Encyclopedia Universalis, some truths that are as significant as they are taboo in France. On the one hand: “Mohammed revealed in Medina unsuspected qualities as a political leader and military chief…. He resorted to private war, an institution commonplace in Arabia…. Mohammed soon sent small groups of partisans to attack the Meccan caravans, thus punishing his unbelieving compatriots and simultaneously acquiring a rich booty.”
On the other hand: “Mohammed profited from this success by eliminating from Medina, by means of massacre, the last Jewish tribe that remained there, the Qurayza, whom he accused of suspicious behaviour.” Finally, “After the death of Khadija, he married a widow, a good housewife, Sawda, and also little Aisha, who was barely ten years old. His erotic predilections, suppressed for a long time, led him to embark on around ten marriages concurrently.”
The exaltation of violence: a merciless war chief, plunderer, slaughterer of Jews and a polygamist, such is the man revealed through the Koran.
In fact, the Catholic church is not above reproach. Its history is strewn with dark pages, for which it has made repentance. The Inquisition, the witch hunts, the execution of the philosophers Bruno and Vanini, those wrong-thinking epicureans, that of the knight of La Barre for impiety, well into the 18th century, do not testify in the church’s favour. But what differentiates Christianity from Islam is apparent: it is always possible to counterpose Gospel values and the mild character of Jesus to the deviations of the Church.
None of the faults of the Church have their roots in the Gospel. Jesus is non-violent. The return to Jesus is an answer to the excesses of the ecclesiastical institution. The return to Mohammad, by contrast, reinforces hatred and violence. Jesus is a master of love, Mahomet a master of hatred.
The stoning of Satan, each year at Mecca, is not just a superstitious phenomenon. It not only sets the scene for a hysterical crowd on the edge of barbarity. Its scope is anthropological. Here in fact is a rite, to which each Muslim is invited to submit, inscribing violence as a sacred duty in the heart of the believer. This stoning, annually accompanied by the trampling to death of some of the faithful, on occasion several hundred of them, is a ritual that nurtures archaic violence.
Instead of getting rid of this archaic violence, in imitation of Judaism and Christianity, by neutralising it (Judaism starts with the abandonment of human sacrifice, that is to say the entrance into civilisation, and Christianity transforms sacrifice into the eucharist), Islam constructs a nest for this violence, where it is incubated. Whereas Judaism and Christianity are the religions whose rites conjure away violence, delegitimising it, Islam is a religion which, even in its sacred text, as well as in certain of its commonplace rituals, exalts violence and hatred.
Hatred and violence inhabit the book in which every Muslim is educated, the Qur’an. As at the time of the cold war, violence and intimidation are the methods used by an ideology with a hegemonic ambition, Islam, to spread its leaden cloak over the world. Benedict XVI suffered a cruel experience of this. As in those times, one must call the West the “free world” in relation to the Muslim world, and as in those times the enemies of this “free world”, zealous servants of the vision of Qur’an, are gathering at its centre.