By Hooshang Vaziri

PARIS 17 MARCH (IPS) Roger Garaudy, a French philosopher formerly Communist turned Muslim was recently fined in a Paris Court to 120.000 French Francs fine because in a recent book "Political Myths of the State of Israel", in which he contested the existence of gas chambers in Hitler's Germany as well as the number of the Jewish population eliminated by the Germans in different concentration camps and elsewhere.

But at the same time, many Muslim nations and organisations had vigorously defended him. To pay his defence, he received hundreds of thousands of US dollars by wealthy Arab donators and his book is selling like "hot cake" from Tehran to Cairo.

Arab jurists, including Egyptian and Lebanese, rushed to Paris to assist Mr Garaudy's French lawyer. Muftis and ayatollahs called on the Muslim to demonstrate in behalf of a man whom they presented as a "Muslim philosopher" and in unison with governments such as that of the Islamic Republic of Iran, openly accused the French Judiciary for its "biased" attitude towards a man who "dared" to speak out of "Zionist lies" and the Paris Court ruling was declared under pressure from Zionists, they said. Newspapers all over the Arab and Muslim world wrote articles and commentaries defending Mr Garaudy, describing him as a "victim" of Zionist conspiracy

Eventually, the Iranian government paid part of the 120.000 (20.000 US Dollars) fines Mr Gradually was condemned to pay to complainants.

Under the title of "Roger Garaudy, Old Communist turned New Muslim", Hooshang Vaziri, an well known Iranian analyst and commentator who is also the Editor of the London-based Farsi language weekly newspaper Keyhan says some of those who in regimes like that of the Islamic Republic defend Garaudy's assertions are not much better than those who slaughtered millions of Jews and objects to the fact that Iranian president and his Minister of Islamic Guidance also defended the revisionist philosopher.

According to Mr Vaziri, the "old communist philosopher turned Muslim, Roger Garaudy represents an outstanding example of a certain type of extremism, namely, opportunistic extremism.

"At a time when to be communist was synonymous with being modern and progressive, Garaudy wrote a book called Communism and Resurgence Culture. When he had drunk deeply from this trough, another resurgence occurred, this time in Iran. Garaudy had been a welcome guest in Iran during the rule of the Shah and he carried a symbol of Iranian hospitality wherever he travelled in the form of a credit card with which he could make unlimited purchases", Vaziri recalls.

Then came the Islamic revolution. The Shah left and Garaudy became a Muslim.

Hooshang Vaziri then says he is "unable" to understand why this aged philosopher has aligned himself with the fascists and denied the systematic annihilation of the Jews in Hitler's Germany. For this "erasure" of historical reality, French Court fined him to 120.000 Francs. "Yet, once again, Iranian generosity came to the rescue. The Iranian clerical authorities held up his conviction as a proof of the lack of freedom of expression in France, while the Iranian mass media unleashed a campaign of sympathy in his favour", he observed.

"It is evident that totalitarian regimes do not only resemble each other in structure and function, but in the unanimity existing between them. Garaudy denies the genocide, which claim six million Jews as victims. Supporters of Nazism and Fascism applaud his denial, while the Islamic Republic of Iran has awarded him 10.000.000 Rials" (2000 US Dollars at the open market rate of 1 US to 5000 Rials) the writer says.

The writer then reminds that numerous documents and evidence record the Nazi's organised crimes against the Jews, including documentary films, historical researches and memoirs. "The gas chambers may have been removed but the crematoria still exist. When he was a Communist, Garaudy must have found the opportunity to visit one of the prisoners camps at Auschwitz, Dachau, Bergen-Belsen, Treblinka etc.," he adds.

At this point, the commentator gives a long extract taken from the well-documented Hitler biography by Joachim Fest. There is an SS officer's horrific, graphic account of a mass shooting of the Jews. "This account was translated into French", Vaziri says, adding "I don't know if Garaudy has read it or not, but what is important is tat it should be heard by those who collected the money to pay the fine imposed on Garaudy".

"What are amazing are that Mohammad Khatami and Culture and Islamic Guidance Minister Ata'ollah Mohajerani have joined the ranks of the defenders of Garaudy and those protesting at the lack of freedom in France. Perhaps freedom of expression in France does not go as far as it does in England or the United Stares, but no one, least of all the Islamic Republic of Iran can claim that there is no such freedom in France. Garaudy availed himself of such freedom when he put out his shameful lies. However, it should be remembered that alongside freedom of expression, there are also other laws in France against using this freedom in an absolute and unrestricted manner. Freedom of expression and the rule of law have a mutual, indispensable need", he points out.

Vaziri ends his article with a powerful statement, indicating concerns which, he feels, transcend the topics discussed above:

"Everything Possible must be done to ensure that no more Gulags or Nazi camps are created. The world must be cleansed of such wickedness. Conscience must be the judge. The emergence of regimes, which enable people to commit murder so easily, should be prevented. I see no difference between that SS officer who so effortlessly shot the Jews and Sheikh Sadeq Khalkhali (the Islamic judge who, on orders from the grand ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeiny, sentenced to death hundreds of Iranians opposed to the new Islamic regime in instantly held Islamic courts) and Assadollah Lajevardi (former Head of the Iranian prisons who, executed thousands of political prisoners held in Islamic jails). When this sort of regime becomes entrenched in power, such people will always appear. If only (president) Khatami and (Islamic Guidance Minister) Mohajerani had given more thought to the matter before voicing their views", Mr Vaziri concludes.

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