French writer and philosopher Alain Finkielkraut said in Zagreb on Saturday that the view that Croatian Culture Minister Zlatko Hasanbegovic was using post-WWII totalitarian violence to discredit the anti-fascist struggle and his questioning of historical truths had prompted him to sign, along with about 500 European intellectuals, the petition for the minister's replacement.
Finkielkraut has signed the petition at the invitation of his Croatian friends.
"I am here to express solidarity with all Croatians who regard the fact that Hasanbegovic is at the helm of the Ministry of Culture as a shameful act," the French intellectual told a press conference.
"It is scandalous that after communists and Serbian nationalists used antifascism as their instrument, Serbian nationalists tried to equate Croatian nationalism with efforts aimed at reviving the Ustasha ideology. Attempts to respond to such efforts by rehabilitating the Ustasha ideology should be resisted," he said.
"All that the Serbs and communists said about the Ustasha ideology does not mean that the Ustasha ideology should be part of the glorious Croatian heritage. It would be terrible if that happened. Perhaps this crisis is the good time to finally separate legitimate nationalism from the state of Ante Pavelic," he added.
Asked if he had seen the list of historians who expressed their support for Hasanbegovic, Finkielkraut said he had and that on it he found some familiar names, such as that of Ivo Banac.
"I was really shocked by that list, because of Hasbegovic's revisionist statements about Croatian history," he said, adding that the list prompted him to provide even stronger support to Croatian civil society which was revolted by "the climate of historical revisionism not just in political but also in academic circles."
Finkielkraut said that he was unpleasantly surprised when Hasanbegovic, speaking in an interview with Le Monde, singled him out from among the hundreds of signatories of the petition. "My involvement for Croatia in 1991 provoked a lot of opposition in Europe, where I even earned the nickname 'FinkielCroate'," he recalled.
"I wonder why Hasanbegovic is declaring me enemy number one and an Islamophobe and denouncing me in the same way as French Islamic leftists," he said.
Finkielkraut has arrived in Zagreb to attend a ceremony marking 20 years since the launch of The European Messenger magazine in Croatia. He launched the magazine in Paris in the 1980s together with Czech writer Milan Kundera.