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May 23: Maxime Rodinson, Anti-Zionist, Anti-Islamicist

May 22, 2015

6861061French Marxist scholar Maxime Rodinson, whose Polish parents died in Auschwitz while he was serving in the French Institute in Damascus, was born in Marseille (some sources say Paris) on this date in 1915. A true iconoclast, he resigned from the French Communist Party in 1958 in the name of anti-authoritarianism; he opposed Zionism as imposing a false nationalism upon all Jews while forcing the displacement of Palestinians from their homeland (he nevertheless learned both Hebrew and Arabic), yet he urged peaceful negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians and continually urged the Palestine Liberation Organization to renounce violence, terrorism, and their hope of a military victory over Israel. Rodinson also coined the phrase “Islamic fascism” to describe the Iranian Revolution in 1979, and wrote Muhammad (1961), a biography of the prophet of Islam that is still banned in parts of the Muslim world. He became director of the Muslim section of the National Library in Paris in 1948. His books included Islam and Capitalism (1966), The Arabs (1981), Marxism and the Muslim World (1982), Cult, Ghetto, and State: The Persistence of the Jewish Question (1984), and Europe and the Mystique of Islam (2002), and Memories of a Marginal, published after Rodinson died in 2004 at 89.

“Islamic fundamentalism is a temporary, transitory movement, but it can last another 30 or 50 years — I don’t know how long. Where fundamentalism isn’t in power it will continue to be an ideal, as long as the basic frustration and discontent persist that lead people to take extreme positions. You need long experience with clericalism to finally get fed up with it — look how much time it took in Europe! Islamic fundamentalists will continue to dominate the period for a long time to come.” —Maxime Rodinson