French Philosophy Teacher Forced Into Hiding After Op-Ed on Islam

By Eva Cahen | July 7, 2008 | 8:17 PM EDT

Paris ( - A French philosophy teacher has been forced to leave his home and go into hiding after publishing an op-ed piece in the French daily Le Figaro that criticized Islam and the prophet Muhammed.

Robert Redeker, a published author, wrote on September 19 that "the Koran is a book of extraordinary violence" and Islam is a religion that "exalts violence." Comparing Islam to Chritianity, he wrote: "Jesus is a master of love, Muhammed is a master of hatred."

That day's issue of the newspaper was banned in Tunisia, and a commentator on Al Jazeera television criticized Redeker.

An Islamic website linked to al Qaeda published Redeker's photo, phone number and address, with directions.

Last Friday, interviewed on Europe 1 radio, Redeker said that he and his family had received numerous death threats by e-mail and phone. He said he has been forced to leave his high school teaching job near the southern French city of Toulouse.

In his commentary, Redeker wrote that the Koran revealed the prophet Mohammed as a "warlord without pity, a pillager, someone who massacres Jews and a polygamist."

"Hatred and violence reside in the book by which all Muslims are educated, the Koran," he wrote.

Redeker said that Islam was trying "to impose its rules on Europe" by - for example -- asking swimming pools to have special hours for women only and forbidding caricatures of Islam.

"Islam is trying to force Europe to bend to its vision of mankind. As in the past with communism, the West finds itself under ideological surveillance," he wrote.

A research specialist on Islam told Cybercast News Service that while the vast majority of Muslims condemned the death threats, the piece was insulting and had elicited a radical reaction because it hurt sensibilities.

"Does speaking of the prophet as a pillager and as an exterminator of Jews enrich the debate? I don't think so," said Khadija Moshen-Finan, a researcher at the French Institute of International Relations (IFRI) in Paris.

"Even for us Muslims, who say repeatedly that we must debate about the contents of Islam and its evolution in relation to today's international context, these types of articles are not helpful, because they are injurious and are not open to debate."

Moshen-Finan said that when she read the commentary, she concluded that it was just a bad article. "But bad articles should not be censored. I don't think so," she added.

Redeker has been placed under police protection, but he said during the radio interview that he was forced to make his own arrangements in finding safe houses each night.

He said he is no longer able to move around freely and that the Islamic radicals who had threatened him had "succeeded in punishing" him. He felt that he was a victim of the things he's denounced, and he complained that he felt abandoned by the government.

The education minister, Gilles de Robien, said he felt "solidarity" with Redeker but warned that "government employees must show prudence and moderation."

Redeker said his piece was not meant to attack Islam but only certain violent aspects of the religion.

This case comes at a time of renewed debate in Europe over free speech and the right to criticize Islam and the prophet Muhammed.

Last week, a Berlin opera house, fearing a violent reaction, cancelled performances of a Mozart opera, Idomeneo, which showed the severed heads of the prophet Muhammed, Buddha and Jesus Christ.

Last month, Pope Benedict XVI was widely condemned by many Muslims after a speech in Germany that linked the spread of Islam to bloodshed and violence.

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