Question: when do the media in the Muslim world pay more respectful attention to the death of a famous French philosopher than the French and other Western media do? Answer: when the “philosopher” in question is Roger Garaudy.
In Gulf News, Shakir Noori, a writer in Dubai, described himself as “deeply sorrowed” [sic] by Garaudy’s death on June 13 and noted that “intellectuals in Jordan” called him “the most important cultural figure in the twentieth century.” Others in the Muslim world shared this view: Muammar Gaddafi, who gave Garaudy a “human-rights” prize in 2002, called him “Europe’s greatest philosopher since Plato and Aristotle”; former Syrian vice president Abdul Halim-Khaddam considered him the “greatest contemporary western philosopher”; and the Federation of Islamic Organizations in Europe (FIOE) responded to news of his demise by lauding him as a “great thinker” and calling on “Allah, the Almighty, to receive him with His Bountiful Mercy, and to accept him among the righteous.” At Garaudy’s funeral in Paris, he was eulogized as “a man of faith,” “the summit of human values,” and “a great hope for mankind.”
On July 2, a memorial service for Garaudy was hosted in Iran by the Institute of Islamic Culture and Thought in association with the Iranian Philosophy Institute, Al-Mustafa International University, and a half-dozen other important-sounding institutions. Just a few days ago, a memorial conference was held in Tunis on the topic “Roger Garaudy: the science of history and the search for truth.” Among the “researchers, historians and human-rights activists” who gave presentations was philosophy professor Mohsen Mili, a “specialist in the thought of Garaudy,” who said that Garaudy “embodied the thought of the twentieth century.” Yacob Mahi, a Moroccan Muslim living in Belgium, wrote that Garaudy had “contributed enormously to the development of Islamic thought…He was a philosopher, a thinker, a master of wisdom. He was one of my spiritual teachers.”
Who was this great “spiritual teacher”? The answer can be summed up in two words: Holocaust denier. There’s more to say about him, but his extraordinary reputation in the Muslim world has its roots in one simple fact: that Garaudy was a poisonous anti-Zionist who in 1996 published a book – accessible in English, in its entirety, here – the centerpiece of which was an elaborate, mad argument that the Final Solution was a lie. (The book was published in English under the title The Founding Myths of Modern Israel, though its title on the website linked above, The Founding Myths of Israeli Politics, represents a more literal translation of the original French title.) The book lost Garaudy friends, publishers, and 240,000 francs – the fine he was charged for having violated the French law against Holocaust denial. Garaudy also wrote books “exposing” the “Israeli-Zionist” lobby, which, in his view, secretly pulled the strings of government in both France and the U.S. After 9/11 he argued publicly that the Bush administration had plotted the terrorist attacks.
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