I was horrified yesterday when I saw a leaflet in Lausanne’s head municipal library at Chauderon on one of the small tables upon which leaflets announcing forthcoming cultural events are displayed. It was not the type of event which this leaflet (both sides of which are shown above) was there to give notice of – a colloquium organised first and foremost by the French department of the Faculty of Letters of the University of Lausanne – which had unsettled me so much (and I refuse to delve on the picture because in no way could anybody claim that Mr Houellebecq is being gagged), as such events are simply gatherings for university researchers and the general public where they can discuss topics pertaining to fields of academic enquiry. Rather it was that this academic conference (held yesterday and today) would be focusing on the work of a French author whom I now find totally objectionable because of the abject ideology he seems to have become a mouthpiece for in contemporary French literature: Islamophobia.
Judging from the topics discussed during this colloquium (based on the programme which you can access here should you care to find out what was discussed), this issue does not seem to have figured prominently, to say the least. As such, I sincerely regret that taxpayer’s money (including mine because I pay taxes to the city of Lausanne) will have gone to organising an academic conference on an author whose most recent novel seems to me to have been designed uniquely to stir up religious and racial tensions in France and probably elsewhere in Europe, too – a novel thus part of a long list of works of so-called ‘artistic expression’ against what is the religion of more than a billion people.
As I see it, Mr Houellebecq has become a full member of what Nathan Lean has aptly described as the ‘Islamophobia industry’. By having organised a colloquium on such an author which seems to have refused to deal with this issue (based on the programme and on statements made by one of its organisers in the local press – pp 3 and 4 – because I would not have attended this conference even if I had been paid to do so given that it had to do with this author whose views I think are designed to exacerbate tensions between the religious communities), one could argue that the University of Lausanne, even if it may not be described as condoning the views which Mr Houellebecq upholds, has at least given some legitimacy to them – in other words, almost made them a little more ‘respectable’.
- Colloquium announcement, Faculty of French, University of Lausanne
- Colloquium announcement, news section of the University of Lausanne
- Colloquium announcement, news section, website of the Swiss French-speaking Narratology Network, accessed 3 March (link to version at the Internet Archive)
- ‘Michel Houellebecq: “Am I Islamophobic? Probably, yes”’, The Guardian, 6 September 2015 [there is an interesting picture of him with another extremely controversial figure, BHL.); much harsher views on Mr Houellebecq can be found in articles published in French on Startpage with the keywords ‘Houellebecq’ and ‘islamophobie’, especially from non-mainstream outlets
- ‘To submit or not to submit, that is the question.’ A post explaining from my personal experience why it is very important to exercise a healthy dose of scepticism as regards the attitude the media were trying to get you to adopt with respect to Houellebecq/Charlie Hebdo/etc.