A Paris court shows surprising backbone and opts for free speech:
- A Paris court today cleared Michel Houellebecq, a best-selling novelist, on charges of inciting anti-Muslim hatred when he dismissed Islam as "the most bloody stupid religion".
The unqualified acquittal of Houellebecq, 44, a provocateur who specialises in sex-laden tirades against the modern world, was a victory for freedom of expression in the face of growing calls for censorship in France.
....The three-judge panel agreed with Houellebecq's own argument at his trial on September 17 that his remarks about Islam, in an interview, were a judgment on a religion and not an incitement to hate. "These remarks contain no desire for invective nor contempt our outrage against the group of people making up the followers of the religion concerned," said the ruling.
The case was brought by the Paris Mosque, the World Islamic League and the mosques of Paris and Lyon after Lire, a literary magazine published Houellebecq's diatribe against Islam last autumn.
The normally liberal French Human Rights League also joined the plaintiffs. Houellebecq had just published Platform, a novel about sex tourism which features a murderous bomb attack by Muslim extremists at a Thai resort. At the trial, the state prosecutor also agreed with the author that the privately-brought case was unfounded.
In the interview, Houellebecq said: "Islam is the most bloody stupid religion in the world." Speaking of his "hatred" for the religion, he added: "When you read the Koran, it's appalling, appalling! The bible is very beautiful because the Jews have a hell of a literary talent."
Houellebecq, who prides himself as France's leading shock novelist, amplified his views during the one-day trial, saying: "I have never shown the slightest contempt for Muslims but I still have as much contempt for Islam."