The latest case involves "Rage and Pride," a best-selling novel by Italian writer Oriana Fallaci.
One plaintiff, the anti-racist group MRAP, wants the book banned from France altogether. Two others, including the Human Rights League, simply want disclaimers that its disparaging passages on Islam don't accurately reflect the Muslim religion.
Fallaci, 72, who has cancer, was not present during the opening hearing. But her lawyer, Christophe Bigot, denounced the trial as a campaign for political correctness, to the detriment of free expression.
Fallaci "has been very shocked by recent events, notably Sept. 11," Bigot told France-Info in an interview Wednesday. "She wanted to raise a cry of alarm against fundamentalism."
In her book -- a best-seller in Italy and Spain -- Fallaci characterized Muslims as "vile creatures, who urinate in baptistries" and "multiply like rats."
But Bigot argues Fallaci was targeting extremism, rather than the Muslim religion as a whole.
"She's attacking a certain manner of expressing it," he said.
The anti-racist associations argue otherwise.
"When one finishes reading the book, one recognizes the right to kill any Muslim on the street," argued Hacen Taleb, the lawyer representing MRAP, in a statement to the court.
In June, another French judge refused MRAP's request to ban the book in France.
The Fallaci trial echoes another opened last month against controversial French novelist Michel Houellebecq. Like Fallaci, Houllebecq faces charges of "provoking discrimination, hatred or violence" toward a group because of their religion.
But this time, the charges revolve around Houellebecq's anti-Muslim statements during an interview, rather than the passages in his book. A verdict is expected on Oct. 22.
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