Does France have freedom of speech? I ask this because four Muslim groups and a French human rights organization are suing Michel Houllebecq, a French author. It seems that in a magazine interview, Houllebecq said that Islam is the “stupidest religion.” That’s probably not a direct quote since it stands to reason that he said it in French (“la religione plus stupide” is what he most likely said).
I’m not saying I agree with Houllebecq’s ideas, but I thought we were entitled to opinions about these sorts of things. He said he thought the religion was stupid. So what? He also said the Koran, as a work of literature, is inferior to the Bible. I suppose this is a judgment call. Unless you think Houllebecq is a rabid Christian or something, he referred to the religious texts of Islam, Christianity and Judaism as “texts of hate.”
Why are they taking this to court? Houllebecq gave his opinion on the doctrine. He didn’t call for people to go around killing the next Muslim they see or torching mosques. I see a wide distinction between the two. He did not say that something should be done about Islam; he merely said it is stupid. I’m sure some people think that saying Islam is stupid could encourage acts of violence against the Islamic community. I think Britney Spears is stupid, but is that going to cause anybody to kill her?
Dalil Boubekeur, a member of one of the groups involved in the suit said, “Freedom of expression stops where it can do harm.” Fine, but what harm did this actually do? Boubekeur: “I believe my community is humiliated, my religion is insulted, I ask for justice.” Grow up.
This proves to me that nobody can really tolerate a point of view that goes against their own. In the best case, you get annoyed by people who point out how ignorant you are, and in the worst case, you get taken to a French court. I find myself wondering if Houllebecq would be in court if he had made these comments about Christianity or Judaism. Or would Dalil Boubekeur have gone to court if he had said those things about Christianity or Judaism? Just something I’ve been thinking about.
Houllebecq makes a living at angering people. He wrote a 1998 novel that ripped on the hippie generation called, “Atomised.” This won him France’s November prize and the Impac award (according to MSNBC, this is one of the world’s biggest fiction prizes). As much as nobody likes hippies, how is that any different from referring to Islam as stupid?
I agree with Houllebecq when he says, “I do not see how criticizing a religion in an acerbic manner involves them as people.” Without going into specifics, I have friends and relatives whose religious views I think are out there. My views have yet to get in the way of any of these relationships.
What these groups are trying to do is worse than what Houllebecq said. I’d hate to see him turned into another Salman Rushdie, even on a smaller scale. Let’s not forget that he made disparaging remarks about Christianity and Judaism, proving he’s all about equal opportunity. Maybe the groups accusing Houllebecq of being intolerant should take a look at what they’re trying to do.
Chris Ricketts is a junior majoring in English.firstname.lastname@example.org