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Monday, January 29, 2007

Islamist terrorism and Evola

I've just noticed an interesting detail concerning Fuad "Ali" Salah, the leader during the 1980s of a French group calling itself the "Comité de soutien avec les prisonniers politiques et arabes et du Moyen-Orient" (Committee for solidarity with Arab and Middle Eastern political prisoners).

Salah was born in France. Of Tunisian origin, he would have been Sunni (if religious, which he might not have been). In his early thirties, however, he traveled to Shi'i Iran, and then joined forces with Hizbullah (also Shi'i). A small group that he organized in Paris in 1985-86 planted a number of bombs that killed some 14 people and injured some 200, with assistance from both Hizbullah and an Iranian diplomat. Iran, it was thought, wanted to discourage French support for Iraq, then at war with Iran.

Salah and his companions were caught, and tried in Paris 1990-92. During his trial, Salah dismissed his lawyer and conducted his own defense. As might have been expected, he quoted on several occasions from the Quran. And then finally he quoted--at length--from Evola's Revolt Against the Modern World.

Which came first: Evola or Islam? An alienated Frenchman of North African origin who read Evola might certainly turn to a revolutionary organization such as Hizbullah. Sunni Muslims conducting spiritual searches do not normally end up in Iran, however. Devout Shi'i Muslims do not normally discover higher justifications in the works of Westerners, either. My guess, then, would be that Evola came first.

Sources:
  • "Saleh l’imprécateur," L'Humanité, February 3, 1990.
  • "Devant la cour d'assises de Paris Fouad Salah a plaidé à la place de ses avocats," Le Monde, April 15, 1992.
From Le Monde:

Faut-il voir une tentative de justification de ses actes quand il évoque " les causes qui poussent les opprimés de la terre à combattre l'Occident " ? Mais la logique devient vacillante quand il cite pêle-mêle le maréchal Bugeaud, Ernest Renan, Spartacus, Krishna, Albert Schweitzer, " grand théologien ", et Richard Coeur de Lion, qu'il appelle " Coeur de Loup ". Reprenant son cahier, il lit sur un ton chantant, comme s'il s'agissait d'un psaume : " Sans la guerre, les peuples restent souvent opprimés. " Au milieu de quelques sourates du Coran, il parle aussi de " ses meilleurs amis " : Max Frérot et André Olivier, deux membres d'Action directe, et de ce surveillant-chef de la prison, " français et monarchiste ".

Salah s'interrompt, fouille dans son sac pendant de longues minutes, puis évoque saint Matthieu, avant de produire une image de Jeanne d'Arc, " une femme qui a donné l'exemple. Elle défendit son pays contre l'agresseur ". Une référence entendue ailleurs, et qui n'est pas nécessairement fortuite, car Salah se lance ensuite dans une interminable lecture de l'ouvrage Révolte contre le monde moderne, de Julius Evola, auteur italien souvent cité par les mouvements d'extrême droite.



2 comments:

David said...

Hello,
With all due respect, I find this conclusion a bit unneccessary. If this terrorist quotes from Evola, what should that imply? It seems like you have deduced from this that his disgust for the modern world was greater than his Islamic fervor. I dont see how you could assume this from such little information.

It frustrates me when you say that "devout Shi'i Muslims do not normally discover higher justifications in the works of Westerners, either." What could this possibly mean? It's a completely empty claim. If devout Shi'i muslims do not find interest in the works of westerners, it could be merely for the reason they do not need such works. Whats further wrong for you to imply is the unusual nature for a arab sunni to read evola and still join Hezbollah(implying his hate for the west motivated his embrace of Islamic militantism.) This is not at all unusual as many Hizbollah masterminds are college graduates and are highly educated individuals who have received education from the West. Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah for example, is extremely well read in western literature and has even read books by the founders of Israel.

Anyways, leaving this all aside, I still feel that the very question you posed is not a very important one: "Evola or Islam?" If Evola said something which has its roots to the truth and the sacred(though most of the rest which I would "throw away"), then its substance is in a way "one" of the truths expounded by Islam.

With best regards,
David

Mark Sedgwick said...

In response to David:

It would be more true to say that I deduced that "his disgust for the modern world" probably preceded "his Islamic fervor."

It frustrates me when you say that "devout Shi'i Muslims do not normally discover higher justifications in the works of Westerners, either."

David is quite right to point out that there are plenty of devout Shi'i Muslims who are very well read in Western discourse as well as in the Shi'i tradition. What I really meant was that the sequence Paris->Qom->Evola was a lot less less likely than Paris->Evola->Qom.

I still feel that the very question you posed is not a very important one: "Evola or Islam?" If Evola said something which has its roots to the truth and the sacred(though most of the rest which I would "throw away"), then its substance is in a way "one" of the truths expounded by Islam.

A truth is indeed a truth. But as a historian I am especially interested in chronology, and so in how people arrive at particular conclusions.

I find this case interesting because it involves the probably impact of Evola on one individual. But I also find it interesting because of its implications for the post 9/11 debate on "Islamic terrorism." Does this terrorism come out of Islam as a religion or out of politics? Does it come out of the Muslim world or out of the West? In this case, it seems that the motivations of one individual "Islamic terrorist" had a major element that derived neither from Islam nor the Muslim world.