In our recent article regarding the legacy of Ahmed Deedat, we mentioned the fact that in 1986 he shared Saudi Arabia’s King Faisal Award for “Service to Islam” with a certain Roger Garaudy.
Many readers may have naturally been wondering:
Who was this Roger Garaudy? Who was this individual that received one of the most prestigious awards in the Muslim world; and that too for his “Service to Islam”; and then also having shared this honor with the renowned Ahmed Deedat? (And how do you even pronounce his name?)
Roger Garaudy was post-WWII France’s leading Communist philosopher. For instance, he supervised the translation of Lenin’s complete works (published by Les Éditions sociales in 47 volumes).
His books on “complex” subjects of philosophy (Marx, Hegel, etc.) were published by the best French academic editors.
Garaudy had shocked the French Communist Party (which he had joined in 1933) as he began to embrace the Christian faith. The party later expelled him in 1970. He then went on to become one of Europe’s pioneers of political ecology.
Finally, he converted to Islam during the ’80s, which also pushed him to adopt a critical stance on Zionism in the realm of geopolitics.
This is the reason why one of France’s leading intellectuals from the last century is pretty much unknown. Yet he was the author of more than 70 books and is objectively superior to many other French thinkers that are often fetishized within the Anglosophere, such as Michel Foucault (whom Garaudy had disagreements with when both were teachers during their early career, which is quite symbolic).
Now let’s take a deeper look.
The Marxist Thinker
Garaudy began his intellectual career as a Marxist thinker in the ’40s, just after WWII (during which he’d received medals for participating in the resistance).
Typical of his Marxist stance is what he says of Sartre and existentialism in his 1948-book Literature of the Graveyard. According to Garaudy, Sartre and existentialism were a sort of bourgeois conspiracy to make sure that the youth, rather than revolting, would concentrate all their efforts in futile quests regarding “self-discovery,” “true freedom” and so on.
This critique—which resembles that of another Marxist philosopher, György Lukács—is still relevant today because even now the likes of Jordan Peterson, despite identifying the ills, propose solutions which are just other variations of the same disease.
It must be noted that even back then, Garaudy had something for the people of Islam. In 1946, while in French-occupied Algeria, he published a provocative La Contribution Historique De La Civilisation Arabe (“The Historical Contribution Of The Arab Civilization”).
In the following years, he continued publishing important books with a Marxist orientation such as La Théorie Matérialiste De La Connaissance (“The Materialist Theory Of Knowledge,” 1953), Dieu Est Mort-Etude Sur Hegel (“God Is Dead-A Study Of Hegel,” 1962), etc.
He didn’t only write about dry philosophy but also books on art and literature. He himself wrote a few novels and translated some as well (such as his translation of Boris Polevoy’s Real Man from the Russian language).
He began to distance himself from Communists during the early ’70s. He was disgusted by the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia (1968) and thus started to look towards a more “humanist” Marxism which would exorcise the too-authoritarian Stalinian version.
He found this “humanism” in Christianity and then penned books trying to forge an alliance between Marxists and Christians.
Such an effort may seem idealistic now but at the time it was appreciated by the likes of Giulio Girardi, who was an influential Catholic priest and philosopher from Italy that also passed away in 2012. And this project of Garaudy is still the subject of theses in Western universities.
In fact, during these years Garaudy was the subject of many books and theses, detailing his thought and books. This was of course prior to the unofficial boycott, and we’ll now explore why he has been ostracized.
The Anti-Zionist Muslim Convert
After this “Christian Marxist” phase (which followed his earlier “atheist Marxist” phase) Garaudy briefly flirted with the environmental or ecological movement, which at this moment in time, was a relatively new movement.
Garaudy’s views about ecology are encapsulated within his 1979-book Appel Aux Vivants (“A Call To The Living”). He criticizes the notions of “development,” “economic growth,” and also Western ideas such as individualism and rationalism.
But Garaudy’s conversion to ecologism was nowhere near as controversial as his conversion to Islam, which was formalized in 1982 after a prolonged spiritual quest.
He had already published two books on Islam in 1981: Promesses De L’Islam (“Promises Of Islam) and L’Islam Habite Notre Avenir (“Islam Is Our Future”), and in the coming years these publications were followed by many others on the subject.
These books on Islam are still regularly republished due to the interest that they generate among France’s Muslims.
However his anti-Zionism stance would ultimately cost him dearly.
Already in 1982 his miltant anti-Zionism led him to compare Zionism to Nazism.
In the 1990s he published The Founding Myths Of Israeli Politics, which argued, among a number of other controversial claims, that Hitler had ordered the deportation and not the extermination of the Jews and that typhus, not gas chambers, was responsible for the deaths of Jews in Nazi concentration camps.
After an outcry in the press, Garaudy was prosecuted under France’s tough laws against inciting racial hatred and denying crimes against humanity, to be found guilty in 1998.
He appealed against the judgement at every possible level but lost each time, with the final verdict from the European Court of Human Rights declaring that he had received a fair trial.
Garaudy died in Chennevières, in the Marne valley east of Paris, at the age of 98.
He basically died persecuted and isolated—all because he rejected the Zionist version of history.
Yet another example of the sheer hypocrisy of freedom of expression—an un-Islamic liberal concept.
But as Muslims what is of significant interest to us, is how a man that was once France’s leading Communist philosopher and then a pioneer ecologist, embraced Islam and had to suffer severely for his faith.
His name and life definitely deserve a more prominent place within Muslim public discourse.
May Allah (subhanaHu wa ta’ala) forgive his mistakes and accept his good deeds. Amin.