French teacher in hiding after criticizing Islam

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Robert Redeker, a French writer and college tutor in Toulouse, is now in hiding after receiving a series of death threats from Islamic fundamentalists by phone, email, and on a radical Islamist internet forum.

One online posting called upon French Muslims to "follow the lead of Muhammad Bouyeri", who murdered the Dutch filmmaker Theo van Gogh after he made a film denouncing the plight of abused Muslim women.

The forum also published photos of him, his home address with directions, the places where he works, and his telephone numbers. Mr. Redeker told i-TV that:

"There is a very clear map of how to get to my home, with the words: 'This pig must have his head cut off'."

The French police say they are taking the threats seriously, but did not elaborate on the protection offered to Mr. Redeker.

Mr. Redeker had published an editorial in Le Figaro criticizing Islam. His article stated that the Prophet Mohammed was "a merciless warlord, a looter" and "a mass-murderer of Jews". He also asserted that Islam "exalts violence and hatred" in its sacred text and religious rites.

Le Figaro has defended Mr. Redeker, publishing a front-page open letter, signed by the editor and the publisher, saying "We condemn with the greatest conviction the grave attacks on freedom of thought and freedom of expression which this affair has provoked." But later issues apologies.

Education Minister Gilles de Robien expressed "solidarity" with Mr. Redeker but also criticized him for not showing "prudence and moderation". Two French teachers unions have issued statements defending Mr. Redeker's right to speak freely while also criticizing his statements.

Le Figaro has been banned in several Muslim countries, including Egypt.

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