A well-known and respected French scholar, Roger Garaudy, is on trial in the land of ‘liberty’ and ‘fraternity’ for publishing a thoroughly researched and schorlarly work on the mythical foundations of Israeli policy, while in Britain he comes under attack from a new campaign for lifting the anti-Rushdie fatwa and, ironically, for the international protection of the freedom of thought.
In his book, Les Mythes fondateurs de la politique israelienne (The Founding Myths of Israeli Policy), the French Muslim radical and long-standing critic of the zionist State and the western support for the disinheritance of the Palestinian people, questions the holocaust as a historical fact and as a valid basis for the usurption of Palestine, including Jerusalem, by European Jewry with no links to the land, and, at best dubious historical claims to it.
The scholarly approach of the book and the soundness of the research on which it is based are not in doubt - qualities that distinguish it from the blasphemous diatribe, the Satanic Verses, which goes out of its way to heap insult on the Prophet Muhammad, upon whom be peace. Yet, Garaudy is prosecuted, and maligned by the western writing fraternity and media for his thoughts while Salman Rushdie is lionized and protected for his gratuitous insult to Islam and Muslims.
Fortunately , and not surprisingly, Garaudy’s prosecution before a Paris court for defying the holocaust contrary to French law, has provoked angry reaction in the Muslim World, especially the Middle East, where writers’ associations, human rights groups and even muftis have attacked the hypocritical and pro-zionist nature of the French move.
A group of Syrian writers and intellectuals, for instance, issued a statement on January 13 attacking the trial as a travesty of justice; the Iranian Islamic Committee for human rights castigated the prosecution as a move against the freedom of opinion; and, in Egypt, Lebanon and Qatar similar protestations were voiced. And the Syrian mufti, Shaikh Ahmad Kaftaru, expressed support for Garaudy.
Shaikh Kaftaru’s backing came in a letter read at a ‘solidarity function’, held in the Doha Sheraton Hotel on January 12, which was addressed by Garaudy himself by satellite telephone. The gathering which was videotaped, quickly turned into an anti-Israeli rally.
The 85-year-old French scholar told the gathering that his book represented a ‘modest contribution’ to the Palestinian cause, adding that instead of responding to his charges they put him on trial. The distributors of the book in several countries were subjected to beatings and imprisonment, he said.
Garaudy said that ‘we are opposed to extreme zionist racism but not to the Jewish faith, which I, as a Muslim respect as a religion from God.’ He added that the idea behind his trial was to ‘tar us as anti-Semitic’ although many Jews reject zionist extremism, believing it would eventually destroy Israel.
His words quickly turned out to be prophetic. Less than 10 days after his address to the Doha solidarity gathering, a prominent British Jew and internationally renowned violinist, Lord Yehudi Menuhin, compared right-wing Israeli nationalism to the evil of nazism.
‘Those who relentlessly push for war should remember that those who have tried to have Jerusalem for themselves alone have been defeated because this is an eternal city,’ Lord Menuhim told the French newspaper Le Figaro.
‘It is extraordinary how nothing ever dies completely,’ he said. ‘Even the evil which prevailed yesterday in Nazi Germany and which is gaining ground in that country (Israel) today.’
The 81-year-old musician then took a snipe at the myth of Israeli policy, echoing, if only faintly, Garaudy’s central theme. He said Israel no longer has a ‘mission as the promised land for a persecuted people.’ He added : ‘That is over. There is now a much more important mission, which is the responsibility of Israel and Israel alone: to organize peace in the Midle East. But it increasingly seems to me that this is impossible.’
If a distinguished member of the British Jewry can compare Israel to Nazi Germany why has the so-called British ‘liberal’ establishment found it necessary to support Garaudy’s prosecution, backing Israeli nazist policies? And particularly at a time when it has launched a new crusade against the anti-blasphemy fatwa.
The London-based Independent-On-Sunday newspaper published an article by its Middle East correspondent, Rober Fisk, on February 1, attacking Garaudy’s thoughts on the holocaust as ‘lies’ and deplored Muslim and Arab support for him as being wrong-headed and ‘at risk’ of turning the denier of the holocaust into a ‘cult figure.’
The self-styled liberal Sunday newspaper also published, in the same issue, an editorial calling for lifting the fatwa against The Satanic Verses. It even went to the extent of arguing that any improvement in the US-Iranian relations should be subject to the lifting of the fatwa.
While the Independent-On-Sunday was parading its anti-Islamic animus, another citadel of the liberal establishments - the international writers’ trade union, Pen - was holding forth about the need for protecting freedom of thought in the world.
A battery of pompous and self-important writers, including Melvyn Bragg, Hanif Kureshi, Harold Pinter, the play-wright, and the ubiquitous Rushdie himself addressed a gathering entitled ‘In Praise of Freedom’ at the Chelsea Town Hall in London on February 4.
None of the speakers raised the issue of Garaudy’s prosecution, taking place in neighbouring France, while even the relatives of dead obscure writes, such as the Nigerian Ken Saro-Wiwa, were thought to be worthy of the gatering’s protection. The novelist Doris Lessing spoke of sheltering the brother of Saro-Wiwa.
The lesson of all this for Muslims is clear. Garaudy, like other Muslims on trial in the west, is on his own and deserves even greater support from Muslims worldwide.
Muslimedia: February 16-28, 1998