The Grand Mosque of Paris announced on Wednesday, December 28th, that it has filed a legal complaint against the writer Michel Houellebecq, following controversial remarks published by the sovereignist magazine Front Populaire, transcribed in the context of a dialogue with the philosopher Michel Onfray. The author is accused of inciting hatred against Muslims.
In a press release, the Grand Mosque condemned Houellebecq’s bitter accounting of the decline of the West as due to Muslim immigration. During the interview with Onfray, Houellebecq identified the Islamization of French society as the key event in this seemingly inevitable process. He asserts in particular that “the wish of the native French population” is not “that the Muslims assimilate, but that they stop robbing them and attacking them. Or else, another solution, that they leave.”
Houellebecq also worries about the rise in violence that can be observed throughout France, adopting the analyses of essayist Laurent Obertone, who also imagines, in a dystopia called Guerilla, a country soon sinking into chaos as the consequence of decades of uncontrolled immigration and cowardice on the part of the authorities.
Michel Houellebecq explains:
People are arming themselves. They are getting guns, taking classes at shooting ranges. And they are not hotheads … When entire territories are under Islamic control, I think that acts of resistance will take place. There will be attacks and shootings in mosques, in cafes frequented by Muslims, in short, Bataclan in reverse.
The Grand Mosque deems the remarks to be “staggeringly brutal,” although these kinds of attacks on Islam are frequently found in the writings of Houellebecq. In 2015, he published a dystopian novel entitled Submission (the literal translation of the word ‘Islam’) in which he imagined France electing a Muslim president as its leader in the 2022 presidential elections.
The Grand Mosque of Paris is a French mosque built in the capital after the First World War, in gratitude for the commitment of many Muslims in the French troops. Inaugurated in 1926, it is the oldest mosque built on mainland French soil. It is sustained mainly by Algeria, which finances about a third of its budget. Today, it plays an important role in representing Islam in France, and its rector—the title is inspired by Catholicism—is a religious authority whose opinion is often sought by the press and the political world.
The rector of the mosque, Chems-eddine Mohamed Hafiz, considers Houellebecq’s “pithy” sentences absolutely “unacceptable.” On Twitter, he added that these remarks “are not intended to enlighten any public debate but to fan the flames of discriminatory discourse and action.”
The mayor of Paris, Anne Hidalgo, assured the rector of “all her support,” but on social media, the debate rages. However, the essayist Anne-Sophie Chazaud has retorted to the Paris mosque that the temptation to judicialize critical remarks about Islam had a dangerous precedent, namely the massacre of the editorial staff of Charlie Hebdo in 2015.
The Paris mosque justifies its approach by citing the latest ruling by the European Court of Human Rights against Éric Zemmour. On Tuesday, December 20th, the Court upheld a hate speech conviction against Zemmour for claiming, in 2016, that his country was being invaded and colonised by Muslims. The polemicist had tried to challenge this conviction for the “provocation to religious hatred” as a violation of his freedom of expression, but failed.