With President Emmanuel Macron awarding novelist and fierce critic of Islam with the Legion of Honour, activists say the country is 'decorating' people who are at odds with Republican values.
French President Emmanuel Macron has bestowed novelist Michel Houellebecq with the country’s highest award, the Legion of Honour.
The 63-year-old received the award at a ceremony in the Elysee Palace on Saturday, marking the high-point of a career riddled with controversy over his views on Islam, race, and women.
His 2015 book, Submission, described Islamic rule in France and despite its commercial success, was criticised for spreading fear of Muslims and immigrants.
The book is a dystopian depiction of France in the future, where a Muslim has won the French presidential election, and immediately moved to Islamicise the country.
In Submission, Jews are encouraged to leave France for Israel, women are forced to wear the veil, and only Muslims are allowed to teach at the Sorbonne, which in the novel becomes a Saudi-funded Islamic university.
Houellebecq has previous form attacking the religion, including his description of Islam as the “stupidest religion” in 2002.
“France is not Michel Houellebecq ... it is not intolerance, hatred and fear,” said former French Prime Minister Manuel Valls in the wake of Submission’s publication, which also coincided with the Charlie Hebdo attacks.
The book was praised by French far-right leader, Marine Le Pen, who said it was a fictional work that could “become reality”.
In an interview with the Guardian after its release, Houellebecq doubled down on his previous comments.
When asked if he was Islamophobic, he responded “probably yes” before caveating: “but the word phobia means fear rather than hatred.”
French anti-racist and civil liberties activist, Yasser Louati, told TRT World that Houellebecq’s award showed that Islamophobia was “totally blessed” by the mainstream political class, and was not a unique occurrence.
“Houellebecq’s decoration comes a few years after Alain Finkielkraut, another notorious racist, was accepted into the prestigious Academie Française, just like famed Vichy supporter and anti-Semitic writer Charles Maurras was accepted into the Academy Française in 1939,” Louati said.
“The French Republic is again decorating people despite their staunch opposition to Republican values and equality between people."