Book criticising Islam withdrawn over controversy

People assemble to observe a minute of silence near candles in the colour of the French flag at the Place du Capitole in Toulouse, France, as they pay tribute to the victims of the series of deadly attacks in the French capital on Friday.Reuters

Controversial French philosopher Michel Onfray has decided to withdraw a critical essay on Islam from publication, saying that "no debate is possible" in France after the Paris attacks on November 13.

According to Grasset publishing house cited by the International Business Times, the book could still be published abroad in the coming months.

Onfray drew ferocious criticism on himself after tweeting immediately after the shootings and bombings in the French capital: "Right and left sowed war against political Islam, and now they are reaping it back."

He was attacked from both the left and the right. Among his critics was French intellectual Alain Finkielkraut, who said he was showing a Western-centric attitude in believing that everything that happened in the Islamic world was a reaction to the West.

"We have got to put an end to what I call this 'guilty conscience ethnocentrism'," Finkielkraut said. "The West has to drop this megalomaniac notion that it is it – the West – that in all circumstances is leading the dance. In fact there are other historical agents at work, with their own agendas."

Laurent Joffrin, editor of Liberation newspaper, accused Onfray of lumping all Muslims together: "In a naive and dangerously masochistic way, he has taken as his own the argument of the fundamentalists – who repeatedly present their own crimes as a response to western aggression.

"He turns Daesh (IS) – what an honour! – into the heart of the Umma (Muslim community), conferring on this obscurantist and terrorist militia the status of legitimate representative of Islam in the world."

Onfray is a noted atheist campaigner who, according to a spokesman for Grasset, considers religions as "diseases conductive to hatred, bigotry and denial of the body". His editors say he read the Quran "very closely", and found in it "frequent apologies of violence and war".