Quelle breath of fresh air!
Courtesy of LGF, I happened across this encouraging bit of news: the French citizens of Saint-Genis-Pouilly, a hamlet on the border with Switzerland, are standing up to Muslim tyranny. What could the Muslims possibly have done to rouse them?
They dissed Voltaire.
Concurrently with the cartoon jihad, Muslims in this Alpine community decided they just couldn’t tolerate French people in a French village reading aloud a 265-year-old play by a French literary master — a master who is remembered not only for his barbs and literary flair (“If God did not exist, it would be necessary to invent him”) but for his position as representative of Europe’s unalterable (we hope) commitment to secular enlightenment. The play in question is called, pointedly enough, “Fanaticism, or Mahomet the Prophet,” and as the article cited above puts it, it “uses the founder of Islam to lampoon all forms of religious frenzy and intolerance”. To the surprise of no one, the Muslims protested the reading by expressing religious frenzy and intolerance.
A Muslim cafe-owner named Said Akhrouf — who, though of Moroccan descent, was born and raised in France and thus might have had some inkling as to the value of Voltaire to the culture of which he is an intimate part — got together for a powwow with three “Islamic activists” to decide how they were going to deal with this intolerable provocation. They wrote a letter to the town’s mayor, Hubert Bertrand, demanding that their sensibilities be appeased by canceling the show. The letter stated the cancellation was required “in order to preserve peace” — pretty thin code for a shakedown.
To his great credit, Bertrand told them to buzz off, called the police and arranged protection for the theater for the night of the reading. When he announced — flanked by French security officials — that the show would go on, he read aloud the portion of the French constitution that guarantees free speech.
Sure enough, on the night of the performance a “small riot” broke out, in which a car and garbage cans were set on fire. Policemen spent the evening chasing Muslim “youths” through the streets. Mayor Bertrand, who I gather quite enjoyed this little run-in, described the riot as “the most excitement we’ve ever had down here”.
It appears that stomping on Voltaire might be the most effective way of shaking the French people out of their drowsy complacency. As the article points out,
Supporters of Europe’s secular values have rushed to embrace Voltaire as their standard-bearer. France’s national library last week opened an exhibition dedicated to the writer and other Enlightenment thinkers. It features a police file started in 1748 on Voltaire, highlighting efforts by authorities to muzzle him. “Spirit of the Enlightenment, are you there?” asked a headline Saturday in Le Figaro, a French daily newspaper.
…the name Voltaire — and the Enlightenment tradition he embodies — has frequently been cited by pundits across Europe commenting on the Danish cartoon furor. That controversy has triggered violent clashes in Pakistan, Nigeria, Libya, Syria and elsewhere, leaving scores dead…Sunday in the Pakistani city of Karachi, about 50,000 people, many chanting “Hang those who insulted the prophet,” rallied to protest the cartoons. The protest, held a day after a visit to the country by President Bush, also featured chants of “Death to America.” In a video broadcast Sunday, Osama bin Laden’s deputy, Ayman al-Zawahri, also denounced the Danish drawings…
“Help us Voltaire. They’ve gone mad,” read a headline last month in France Soir, a daily newspaper.
Voltaire himself had a taste of the oppression French Muslims are trying to oppose on his country — only then, the fanatical tyrants were Christians:
When Voltaire wrote the play in 1741, Roman Catholic clergymen denounced it as a thinly veiled anti-Christian tract. Their protests forced the cancellation of a staging in Paris after three performances — and hardened Voltaire’s distaste for religion. Asked on his deathbed by a priest to renounce Satan, he quipped: “This is not the time to be making enemies.”
The French director of the reading, Herve Loichemol, “says he wasn’t trying to provoke Muslims but knew from experience his production might anger some. He pushed ahead anyway. Banning blasphemy ‘admits private beliefs into public space,’ he says. ‘This is how catastrophe starts.’”
Well done, Saint-Genis-Pouilly. And may I suggest to Muslim cafe owner Akhrouf: you might want to consider packing up your croque monsieur pan and your lace curtains and opening a nargila parlor in Marrakech. You might feel a little more at home.