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July 1, 2012 Special Dispatch No. 4817

Organizations, Academics And Columnists In Arab World And Iran Mourn Holocaust Denier Roger Garaudy

July 1, 2012
Special Dispatch No. 4817

"Farewell, Defender of the Arabs" was the headline of an article in the Egyptian daily Al-Yawm Al-Sabi' mourning the death of French philosopher, politician, and convicted Holocaust denier Roger Garaudy, who passed away last month at the age of 98.

Garaudy was first embraced by the Arab world and Iran after he converted to Islam in the 1980s and began harshly criticizing Israel's treatment of the Palestinians. In 1998, he was convicted by a Paris court of denying the Holocaust and fined 240,000 French francs (about $18,000) for claims he made in his book The Founding Myths of Modern Israel.

Garaudy's death was reported widely in the Arab and Iranian press, and was marked by various Arab organizations. The reports and statements stressed his conversion to Islam, his support for the Muslims and especially the Palestinians, his condemnation of Zionism, and his denial of the Holocaust.

The following are excerpts from some of the reactions to his death:

Garaudy Was "Islam's Most Beautiful Ambassador To Europe And The World"

Many of the articles published following Garaudy's death stressed his contribution to Islam and his support of Arab and Muslim causes, especially of the Palestinian cause. They discussed his writings and his "cerebral" approach to Islam, saying that in the religion he had found peace and tranquility after his tumultuous ideological and religious journey.

Iranian Basij commander Mohammad Reza-Naqdi wrote that Garaudy's death had "saddened the Muslims throughout the world, especially the lovers of freedom and justice," and added: "This philosopher, who regarded Islam as a universal religion and called upon the Muslims to fight and to rise up against the tyrannical rulers in the world, wrote courageously and forcefully against the occupying and anti-human Zionist [movement]. I hope that his students and friends continue his legacy of rejecting usurpation and arrogance and exposing human history in a well-argued manner..."[1]

A statement by the International Union of Muslim Scholars, headed by Sheikh Yousef Al-Qaradhawi, read: "[Garaudy] devoted much of his life to a quest for the truth, and tried Catholicism and communism... [but] finally converted to Islam, with perfect faith, and found peace [in this religion], becoming one of the greatest defenders of Islam and its culture... Our Islamic world has lost one of its greatest thinkers and philosophers, an eminent defender of human freedom and dignity and of Islam and the Muslims."[2]

A statement by the Arab Writers Union in Syria, in which Garaudy was an honorary member, noted that he had "fought for truth and for noble principles, and had acted to correct the historical mistakes that had been perpetrated against the peoples..."[3]

The Egyptian daily Al-Yawm Al-Sabi' devoted a special section to Garaudy, calling him "the defender of the Arabs" and "the [Western] philosopher closest to the Arabs and Muslims and Islam's most beautiful ambassador to Europe and the world."[4] The website of the Arabic-language Iranian channel Al-Alam TV described him as "a fighter against Zionism and the American hegemony."[5]

Some called for remembering Garaudy by establishing a research center in his honor or by creating an award in his name. Palestinian historian 'Abd Al-Qader Yassin urged businessmen to donate money for the latter cause, saying: "The Arab nation has plenty of businessmen who, in order to appease Washington and Tel Aviv, place money in the hands of Western organizations that are hostile to Arab causes. This Arab money should be directed towards [pro-]Arab thinking and towards encouraging people to continue in Garaudy's footsteps."[6] Yassin also called for Garaudy's writings to be republished "so that the youth of the revolution would know them." Egyptian General Writers Union Dr. Ahmad Mujahid responded to the call, announcing that he would try to purchase the publishing rights.[7]

On June 27, 2012, a conference on Garaudy was held in Al-Bireh in the West Bank. Participants called for benefiting from his critical thinking "which managed to undermine the Zionist myths."[8]

These laudatory statements and articles did not satisfy some, who complained that the Arab world had abandoned Garaudy during his lifetime and after his death. Columnist Nasser Al-Zahiri wrote in the UAE daily Al-Ittihad: "In terms of media [attention], Garaudy died years ago, when he was left alone in the fray to defend his views and his outlook against [the attacks] of the Jewish media and their various [means of] pressure... As usual, among those who abandoned him were the Arab and Muslim administrations, who did not rally to his defense..."[9] An article in Al-Yawm Al-Sabi' stated that despite Garaudy's role in defending the truth and his unflagging support of the Palestinian cause, the Islamic political movements and official Arab media did not bother to mark his death.[10]

Garaudy – "The First Denier Of The Holocaust Myth"

Besides stressing Garaudy's conversion to Islam, the articles and statements focused on his 1998 book The Founding Myths of Modern Israel, in which he questioned the existence of the gas chambers and the death of six million Jews in the Holocaust. An article on his life and work posted on the website of Al-Arabiya TV described him as "the [philosopher] who dared question the Holocaust,"[11] and the Iranian news agency Fars called him "the first denier of the Holocaust myth."[12] According to the statement of the Arab Writers Union in Syria, his book proved that "truth and evidence-based credibility and scientific accuracy" were possible.[13]

Columnist Adam Yousef wrote in the Kuwaiti daily Al-Jarida: "Garaudy committed no crime. He merely pointed out that the number of Jews who lived in Europe during World War II did not exceed 3.5 million – so where did the [figure of] six million come from, on which Israel bases the myth of the Holocaust? This is a simple scientific question, [a matter of] proof..."[14]

Tunisian writer Tawfiq Al-Madina claimed in the Syrian daily Al-Thawra that Garaudy had "exposed the false the myths of the Zionists and their false propaganda regarding the Holocaust..."[15]

Fares Al-Wabasha, a columnist for the Jordanian daily Al-Dustour, wrote: "Only rarely do we encounter a prominent Western philosopher and thinker like Roger Garaudy, who supports Arab causes and exposes in a rational and scientific manner the shameful claims of the Zionist movement, undermining its colonialist enterprise in the region..."[16]

Fail Abu Shalala, a columnist on the Hamas website and the former mayor of Khan Yunis, even brought Garaudy's name into the election campaign of Muhammad Mursi in Egypt, explaining that the two figures have much in common, including their position on the Holocaust.[17]

Some claimed that Garaudy's legacy should not be reduced to one book and to his anti-Zionist views. This was the line taken by Dr. 'Ali Maroon, who called for the establishment of a research center in Garaudy's honor. He wrote: "Garaudy's writings must not be [viewed] from the narrow angle of his struggle against the Zionist idea. A research center should be named after him, in honor of all his work."[18]

Al-Sharq Al-Awsat columnist Hashemi Saleh took a somewhat different tack. He said that in his opinion the Holocaust had taken place, but nevertheless criticized the West's preoccupation with Garaudy's Holocaust denial, asking: "Can [the biography] of a man who lived so long and who engaged the world with his writings and political struggles for half a century be reduced to only one incident? Did he do nothing in his life except deny the Jewish Holocaust?" Saleh claimed further that Garaudy had denied the Holocaust only as an act of protest against the complete hegemony of the Zionist lobby in the West.[19]

Endnotes:

[1] Fars (Iran), June 16, 2012.

[2] Qaradawi.net, June 19, 2012.

[3] SANA (Syria), June 18, 2012.

[4] Al-Yawm Al-Sabi' (Egypt), June 19, 2012.

[5] Alalam.ir, June 17, 2012.

[6] Al-Yawm Al-Sabi' (Egypt), June 20, 2012.

[7] Al-Yawm Al-Sabi' (Egypt), June 19, 2012.

[8] Man (PA), June 28, 2012.

[9] Al-Ittihad (UAE), June 20, 2012.

[10] Al-Yawm Al-Sabi' (Egypt), June 19, 2012.

[11] Alarabiya.net, June 15, 2012.

[12] Fars (Iran), June 16, 2012.

[13] SANA (Syria), June 18, 2012.

[14] Al-Jarida (Kuwait), June 17, 2012.

[15] Al-Thawra (Syria), June 20, 2012.

[16] Al-Dustour (Jordan), June 18, 2012.

[17] Almanar.com.lb, June 18, 2012.

[18] Al-Yawm Al-Sabi' (Egypt), June 20, 2012.

[19] Al-Sharq Al-Awsat (London), June 18, 2012.

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