Top Arab writer defends author in 'Muslim sexual misery' row
The veteran Algerian writer Boualem Sansal weighed in Thursday to defend his compatriot Kamel Daoud, who is at the centre of storm over his claim that sex "is the greatest misery in the world of Allah".
Daoud, who won France's top literary prize the Prix Goncourt last year, sparked outrage for an article he wrote in France's Le Monde daily in the wake of the wave of sexual assaults in Cologne on New Year's Eve.
Hundreds of women had reported being molested or robbed by a mob of mostly North African and Arab men in the western German city.
While Daoud deplored racists who regard all Muslim immigrants as potential rapists, he went on to claim that the "Arab-Muslim world (is) full of sexual misery, with its sick relationship towards woman, the human body, desire."
He said it was the Muslim "soul that needs to be persuaded to change".
The novelist has since found himself at the centre of an international row, with his critics accusing him of "fanning the fantasies of Islamophobes".
But Sansal, the elder statesman of Algerian letters, rallied to his cause Thursday, writing in the French newspaper Liberation that "saving Kamel Daoud is saving liberty, justice and the truth".
Earlier this month a radical Algerian preacher was jailed for six months for calling for Daoud's death, while a group of French academics and intellectuals signed an open later berating the writer and journalist.
- 'Politically correct terror' -
"We are cursed," said Sansal, whose own latest book "2084" is a nightmare vision of an Orwellian Islamic state.
He insisted that an unholy alliance of the "declarers of fatwas and the most emeritus of censors, but also the jealous, the fair-weather friends and the agents of the thought police from their perches on high in the media and cultural institutions, are mobilising to get" Daoud.
"We shouldn't kid ourselves, the attacks on Kamel Daoud are (a form of) terrorism called political correctness," Sansal claimed.
In the wake of the controversy, Daoud, a columnist with the Quotidien d'Oran newspaper based in the western Algerian city where he lives, said he was giving up journalism.
He won the Prix Goncourt for "The Meursault Investigation", a pointed Arab retelling of Albert Camus's classic "The Stranger", set in his home city.
Daoud, 45, was once attracted by Islamist ideas but later turned his back on them.
Sansal said although many considered him a "global symbol of the struggle for freedom of expression", he feared Daoud could be browbeaten into forsaking fiction as well.
"Kamel has pulled out of journalism. Are they going to oblige him to abandon literature too?" he asked.
A fierce opponent of Islamists in Algeria and elsewhere, Sansal, an atheist, said that he discovered "the intelligence and the tenacity of the assassins of liberty and thought" from the moment his own first novel, "Le Serment des barbares" (The Barbarians' Oath), was published. "They make a crime of everything," he said.
© 2016 AFP