PARIS, Sept 29, 2006 (AFP) – French anti-terrorism authorities Friday opened an inquiry into death threats against a philosophy teacher who has been forced into hiding over a newspaper column attacking Islam, legal officials said.
Robert Redeker, 52, is receiving round-the-clock police protection and changing addresses every two days, after publishing an article describing the Koran as a “book of extraordinary violence” and Islam as “a religion which… exalts violence and hate”.
He told i-TV television he had received several e-mail threats targeting himself and his wife and three children, and that his photograph and address were available on several Islamist Internet sites.
“There is a very clear map of how to get to my home, with the words: ‘This pig must have his head cut off’,” he said.
Speaking on RMC radio, Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin said such threats were “unacceptable”.
“We are in a democracy, everyone has the right to express his views freely – of course while respecting others. That is the only restriction that is acceptable on this freedom.
“This shows to what extent we live in a dangerous world… and how vigilant we must be to ensure people fully respect one another in our society.”
The Paris state prosecutor’s office Friday launched a preliminary inquiry for “criminal conspiracy in relation with a terrorist enterprise”, asking the DST intelligence agency to look into the death threats.
But despite the government’s assurances of support, Redeker accused the authorities of leaving him “alone and abandoned”.
Interviewed over the telephone from a safe house by Europe 1 radio Friday, he said that “the education ministry has not even contacted me, has not deigned to get in touch to see if I need any help.”
On Thursday Education Minister Gilles de Robien expressed “solidarity” with the teacher, but also warned that “a state employee must show prudence and moderation in all circumstances.”
Redeker said that “if Robien is correct, then we would never have had any intellectual life in France. The function of politics is not tell us what we are allowed to think, but to defend our freedom to think and speak out.”
The issue, as it relates to Islam, is a sensitive one in France, which has Europe’s biggest Muslim community, estimated at six million or around 10 percent of the population.
Le Figaro, which published Redeker’s article on September 19, printed a front-page open letter from the editors Friday expressing solidarity with him and “condemning with the greatest severity the grave attacks on freedom of thought and expression that this affair has provoked.”
Redeker wrote the piece in reaction to the fury unleashed in Muslim countries by Pope Benedict XVI’s references to Islam in an address in Germany two weeks ago.
Under the heading “In the face of Islamist intimidation, what must the free world do?”, he denounced the “Islamisation of spirits” in France and claimed that “Islam is trying to make Europe yield to its vision of mankind.”
Likening Islam to Communism, Redeker said that “violence and intimidation are the methods used by an expansionist ideology… to impose its leaden cloak on the world”.
He also compared the Prophet Mohammed unfavourably to Jesus Christ, describing the founder of Christianity as a “master of love” and the founder of Islam as a “master of hate”.
“Exaltation of violence, a merciless war-leader, a pillager, a massacrer of Jews and a polygamist – this is the picture of Mohammed that emerges from the Koran,” he wrote.
Subsequently Redeker was denounced on Al-Jazeera television by the influential Qatari Muslim scholar Yusuf al-Qaradawi, and that day’s edition of Le Figaro was banned in Egypt and Tunisia.
Speaking on Europe 1, he said his detractors had “already won a victory of sorts.”
“I cannot do my job. I have no freedom of movement. I am in hiding. Already they have succeeded in punishing me… as if I was guilty of holding the wrong opinions.”