Paris, Oct. 3 (AFP): India born British author Salman Rushdie has defended a best-selling French writer, Michel Houellebecq, who is being taken to court on charges of racial insult and inciting religious hatred for having called Islam “the dumbest religion”.
In an opinion piece published today in the French newspaper Liberation and yesterday in the US daily The Washington Post, Rushdie — who himself was made the target of an Iranian fatwa, or Muslim death sentence, for supposedly blaspheming Islam in his 1988 book The Satanic Verses — said a guilty verdict for Houellebecq would be a blow to free speech.
The British author did not support Houellebecq’s comments about Islam and said he had hesitated in coming forward on the Frenchman’s behalf because “just about every writer who comes into conflict with the thin-skinned guardians of Islamic sanctities is forced to wear the ‘new Rushdie’ cap” and they might “rightly resent having the darkest chapter of my story superimposed upon their own difficulties”.
Rushdie said the charges against Houellebecq were “ridiculously slight” and opined that “if an individual in a free society no longer has the right to say openly that he prefers one book to another, then that society no longer has the right to call itself free”.
The main mosques in Paris and Iyon are behind the lawsuit against Houellebecq, 43. They started proceedings in February after reading the writer’s remarks in the literary magazine Lire, which is also cited as a defendant.
A Paris court is to hand down its judgment on October 22.