First it's a cartoon, now it's a voltaire play
The French Muslims want a 265 year old play by Voltaire banned because- wait for it- it insults the prophet, and, of course, things got violent. Read this while I continue to smack my head to my desk:
A municipal cultural center here on France's border with Switzerland organized a reading of a 265-year-old play by Voltaire, whose writings helped lay the foundations of modern Europe's commitment to secularism. The play, "Fanaticism, or Mahomet the Prophet," uses the founder of Islam to lampoon all forms of religious frenzy and intolerance.
The production quickly stirred up passions that echoed the cartoon uproar. "This play ... constitutes an insult to the entire Muslim community," said a letter to the mayor of Saint-Genis-Pouilly, signed by Said Akhrouf, a French-born cafe owner of Moroccan descent and three other Islamic activists representing Muslim associations. They demanded the performance be cancelled.
Instead, Mayor Hubert Bertrand called in police reinforcements to protect the theater. On the night of the December reading, a small riot broke out involving several dozen people and youths who set fire to a car and garbage cans. It was "the most excitement we've ever had down here," says the socialist mayor.
Mayor Bertrand considered dropping the play. But after talking to aides and voters, he decided to stand by Voltaire.
A meeting two days later to defuse the crisis got nowhere. Mr. Bertrand, flanked by officials from France's security service and other state bodies, quoted a section of France's constitution that guarantees free speech. Mr. Akhrouf and Mr. Ouardiri pleaded with authorities to try to understand Muslim feelings. Mr. Akhrouf broke down in tears. "I was very emotional," he says.
The night of the reading, riot police took up positions outside Saint-Genis-Pouilly's cultural center. An hour into the performance, the mayor got called out of the hall because of street disturbances. The mayor says the mood was "quasi-insurrectional," but damage was minor. Police chased Muslim youths through the streets.
Now that tempers have calmed, Mayor Bertrand says he is proud his town took a stand by refusing to cave in under pressure to call off the reading. Free speech is modern Europe's "foundation stone," he says. "For a long time we have not confirmed our convictions, so lots of people think they can contest them."
A frenchie with a backbone. Go Bertrand!
Ok, so now let's play the game of what's next. As in, what will the muslim population of the world demand banned next? Any suggestions? My vote goes for Dante's Divine Comedy, because it says in it that the Prophet goes to Hell and gets tortured there, which I am sure is offesnive to the world's muslim population. Do you think it will be next, or will it be something else?
Let me know!