French Muslim union sues nation’s biggest literary star Houellebecq

The Union of Mosques in France is suing the controversial French novelist Michel Houellebecq for discrimination, hate speech and inciting violence in remarks to an interviewer, the organisation told AFP on Friday.

French writer Michel Houellebecq performs in
French writer Michel Houellebecq performs in "Existence a Basse Altitude", a creation around a collection of his poems at the Printemps de Bourges festival in April 2022. The French Muslim union is suing the controversial author for discrimination in remarks to an interviewer. Photo: GUILLAUME SOUVANT / AFP

Houellebecq, whose books sell in big numbers, penned the international headline-grabbing 2015 novel “Submission” about a Muslim winning the presidency, which taps into right-wing fears over the rise of Islam. 

He is accused of telling an interviewer for the “Front Populaire” publication that Muslims in France should “stop stealing and being aggressive” to “ethnic” French people. 

The passages suggest there could be violence towards French Muslims, which he dubbed “reverse Bataclans”, a reference to the 2015 attacks on the Bataclan concert hall by French and Belgian-born jihadists with links to the Islamic State group. 

Houellebecq has said the controversial sections would be edited out of the interview online, and in a forthcoming book in which the remarks will feature.

Mohammed Moussaoui, president of the union, said in a statement “his proposal to replace them in a forthcoming book does not put an end to their dissemination and does not protect Muslims from their consequences”.

Stephane Simon, a contributor to “Front Populaire”, and the interviewer, philosopher Michel Onfray, are also named in the lawsuit, lawyer Najwa El Haite told AFP.


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French film star faces backlash after sexually suggestive comments

Gérard Depardieu, one of the most well-known figures in contemporary French cinema, is already facing a string of sexual assault allegations. A new behind-the-scenes documentary captures him making obscene comments about women.

French film star faces backlash after sexually suggestive comments

French actor Gérard Depardieu is still trending on X (formerly known as Twitter), after a documentary released earlier this week showed him making repulsive remarks about women. 

‘Gérard Depardieu: La Chute de l’ogre’ (Gérard Depardieu: the fall of the ogre), was broadcast by France 2 on Thursday. It features exclusive behind-the-scenes footage from a film that the French star was shooting in North Korea in 2018. 

Much of the documentary takes place in a horse stable, where Depardieu makes multiple claims that women enjoy riding horseback because they are sexually stimulated by the activity. 

He is also caught telling a female interpreter: “I weigh 124 kilos, without an erection. With an erection, I’m 126 kilos”. 

Depardieu later tells the same woman “I have a girder in my underpants.”

The footage drew anger from feminists across France, with Senator Mélanie Vogel describing the actor as a “dark piece of trash”.

Sexual assault allegations 

In September Helene Darras, a fellow actor, filed a sexual assault complaint against Depardieu with French prosecutors.

Darras said that she was assaulted in 2007, adding to a string of allegations targeting the French star. 

The actor told France 2 that Depardieu groped her when she was aged 26 and appearing as an extra in the film “Disco”.

He “ran his hand over my thighs and my buttocks” then “said straight out: ‘Do you want to come to my dressing room?’,” she added.

Darras said she rejected his alleged advances, but “that didn’t change anything,” she went on. “He kept groping me between takes”.

The actor said she “couldn’t give a damn” if the allegations are too old to be investigated.

Darras “wanted to respond to the defence that plays down our allegations by saying they’re ‘just’ witness accounts,” she told AFP.

Depardieu in 2020 was charged in Paris after allegations of rapes and sexual assaults following a complaint by actor Charlotte Arnould.

Other women have since accused Depardieu of sexual violence in the press.

In a letter to conservative newspaper Le Figaro in October, Depardieu insisted that he is “neither a rapist nor a predator.”

“Never, but never have I abused a woman,” he wrote, saying that he would not be getting involved in “any projects” given the “context” of the allegations.