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Vive l'Article Onze!

by Myles Kantor

To destroy freedom of action is to destroy the possibility, and consequently the power, of choosing, of judging, of comparing; it amounts to destroying reason, to destroying thought, to destroying man himself. Whatever their starting point, this is the ultimate conclusion our modern reformers always reach…

~ Frédéric Bastiat

Several critical studies of Islam have been published in America this year – Srdja Trifkovic's The Sword of the Prophet, Morgan Norval's The Fifteen Century War, and Robert Spencer's Islam Unveiled for example.

Former Muslims also published their reflections in 2002; Ergun and Emir Caner came out with Unveiling Islam and Mark Gabriel with Islam and Terrorism. (Earlier accounts by former Muslims include Reza Safa's Inside Islam and Ibn Warraq's Why I Am Not A Muslim.)

Had these books been published in France, their authors would likely share the fate of novelist Michel Houellebecq.

In an interview last year with the French magazine Lire, Houellebecq said that "Islam is the most stupid religion in the world. When you read the Qur'ran, it's appalling, appalling!"

French Muslim organizations and France’s "Human Rights League" sued Houellebecq for "complicity of provocation to discrimination, hatred or violence with regard to a group of people because of their membership in a religion." His trial began on September 17, where he reiterated that "I have as much contempt as ever for Islam."

If convicted, Houellebecq can be imprisoned for a year or fined $51,000.

Some French intellectuals point out that the charge against Houellebecq boils down to blasphemy; he's sinned against the Church of No One Shall Be Offended. (On this subject, see Paul Gottfried's forthcoming Multiculturalism and the Politics of Guilt: Toward a Secular Theocracy.)

The issue isn't whether Houellebecq's assessment of Islam is true. The issue is whether an individual has the right to affirm his idea of truth.

Houellebecq didn't vandalize a mosque, punch a Muslim, or perpetrate another form of aggression. He opined about Islam, and it's for his opinion that he's in jeopardy.

Lyon Mosque rector Kamel Kabtan says, "We are for freedom of expression, but not for insulting communities." Well, Monsieur Kabtan, insult is a form of expression, oui? Or shall Frenchmen be allowed only to praise Islam?

Speaking of insulting communities, the Qur'an isn't exactly laudatory toward non-Muslims. To give three examples:

  • "O ye who believe! Take not the Jews and the Christians for friends" (surah 5:51).
  • "But those who disbelieve and deny Our revelations, they shall become the inmates of hell" (surah 5:86).
  • "Wretched is the likeness of folk who deny the revelations of Allah" (surah 62:5).

"Appalling" might be a word used to describe such passages.

Article 11 of France's Declaration of the Rights of Man (1789) states, "The free communication of ideas and opinions is one of the most precious rights of man." Note that it doesn't refer to "philo-Islamic ideas and opinions" or "tenderly articulated ideas and opinions." The breadth is indispensable to liberty, and it can't co-exist with "anti-hate" policies.

A simple slogan should be proclaimed by Frenchmen who prefer les droits de l'homme to la nouvelle théocratie: "Vive l'article onze!" And may Michel Houellebecq's persecution inspire Americans to confront our own multicultural theocracy.

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