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Essay critical of Islam leaves teacher on run

PARIS -- A French teacher hiding from Islamist death threats says he has been abandoned by the Education Ministry and has to arrange for his own safe houses when police bodyguards move him every two days.

Robert Redeker went underground after publishing an attack on Islam on Sept. 19, in which he called the Koran "a book of incredible violence" and Islam's prophet Muhammad "a merciless warlord, a looter, a butcher of Jews and a polygamist."

Islam, Mr. Redeker said, "exalts violence and hate."

Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin said the threats against Mr. Redeker, who teaches philosophy in a suburban Toulouse high school, were intolerable and showed that "we live in a dangerous world that is often marked by intolerance."

The threats came amid widespread criticism of Pope Benedict XVI by Muslims who accused him of implying in a speech that Islam was violent. And they coincided with the cancellation of a Mozart opera in Berlin out of fear of Muslim protests.

Speaking from an undisclosed location last week, Mr. Redeker, 52, said he felt alone and abandoned. "The Education Ministry has not deigned to contact me to ask if I need any help," he said.

Mr. Redeker told Europe 1 radio he had no regrets and that asking critical questions was his job as a philosophy teacher.

French Muslim Council head Dalil Boubakeur denounced the threats and said: "Nobody can take the law into his own hands."

Two large teachers unions issued statements supporting Mr. Redeker and free speech. One stressed it did so "even though we do not share his convictions."

The press-watchdog group Reporters Without Borders said Mr. Redeker's article may have been shocking, but added: "If Le Figaro had chosen not to publish this text ... it would have been a defeat for the freedom of thought."

Le Figaro is a major French newspaper.

Paris police undertook an investigation into a possible terrorist link behind the threats, judicial sources said.

In his article, Mr. Redeker also defended Benedict from Muslim critics outraged by a speech he gave on Sept. 12. The pope said his speech had been misunderstood.

Mr. Redeker said his wife was living in hiding with him under protection by police and the DST domestic intelligence agency.

"My security is assured, but the logistics are not," he said. "I have to find myself a place to sleep at night or live for a day or two."

In a separate interview, Mr. Redeker told Le Figaro the threats included "a map showing how to get to my home, with pictures of me and where I work and my telephone numbers."

He said he could not imagine coming out of hiding and resuming his teaching job any time soon.

"I will have to move homes and live somewhere else, where I will now be forced to remain anonymous in my own country," he said.

"The Islamists have succeeded in punishing me on French territory as if I were guilty of a crime of opinion."

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