Sunday, October 14, 2007

Both Arab and Iranian Islamism inspired by Nazism

In a seminal lecture finally delivered at Leeds University last week, the German scholar Matthias Kuntzel traces the unbroken connection between the Nazi-inspired Muslim Brotherhood, founded in Egypt in the 1930s, and today's Islamist terrorists in the West. Although an anti-colonial movement, the Brotherhood's first target was not the British, but the Jews of Egypt and Palestine.

The Islamists’ answer to everything was the call for a new order based on sharia. But the Brotherhood’s jihad was not directed primarily against the British. Rather, it focused almost exclusively on Zionism and the Jews. Membership in the Brotherhood shot up from 800 to 200,000 between 1936 and 1938. In those two years the Brotherhood conducted only one major campaign in Egypt, a campaign directed against Zionism and the Jews.

The starting shot for this campaign, which established the Brotherhood as an antisemitic mass movement, was fired by a rebellion in Palestine directed against Jewish immigration and initiated by the notorious Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, Amin al-Husseini. The Brotherhood organized mass demonstrations in Egyptian cities under the slogans “Down With the Jews!” and “Jews Get Out of Egypt and Palestine!” Their Jew-hatred drew on the one hand on Islamic sources. First, Islamists considered, and still consider, Palestine an Islamic territory, Dar al-Islam, where Jews must not run a single village, let alone a state. Second, Islamists justify their aspiration to eliminate the Jews of Palestine by invoking the example of Muhammad, who in the 7th century not only expelled two Jewish tribes from Medina, but also beheaded the entire male population of a third Jewish tribe, before proceeding to sell all the women and children into slavery. Third, they find support and encouragement for their actions and plans in the Koranic dictum that Jews are to be considered the worst enemy of the believers.

Their Jew-hatred was also inspired by Nazi influences: Leaflets called for a boycott of Jewish goods and Jewish shops, and the Brotherhood’s newspaper, al-Nadhir, carried a regular column on “The Danger of the Jews of Egypt,” which published the names and addresses of Jewish businessmen and allegedly Jewish newspaper publishers all over the world, attributing every evil, from communism to brothels, to the “Jewish danger.”

The Brotherhood’s campaign used not only Nazi-like patterns of action and slogans but also German funding. As the historian Brynjar Lia recounts in his monograph on the Brotherhood, “Documents seized in the flat of Wilhelm Stellbogen, the Director of the German News Agency affiliated to the German Legation in Cairo, show that prior to October 1939 the Muslim Brothers received subsidies from this organization. Stellbogen was instrumental in transferring these funds to the Brothers, which were considerably larger than the subsidies offered to other anti-British activists. These transfers appear to have been coordinated by Hajj Amin al-Husseini and some of his Palestinian contacts in Cairo.”

To summarize our first trip into history: We saw that the rise of Nazism and Islamism took place in the same period. This was no accident, for both movements represented attempts to answer the world economic crisis of 1929 and the crisis of liberal capitalism. However different their answers may have been, they shared a crucial central feature: in both cases the sense of belonging to a homogeneous community was created through mobilizing against the Jews.

In 1937, the Nazis began to welcome the Mufti of Jerusalem's advances, ceasing to treat the Arabs as racial inferiors. They were now allies:

In June 1937 the Nazis changed course. The trigger was the Peel Plan’s two-state solution. Berlin wanted at all costs to prevent the birth of a Jewish state and thus welcomed the Mufti’s advances. Arab antisemitism would now get a powerful new promoter.

A central role in the propaganda offensive was played by a Nazi wireless station, now almost totally forgotten. Since the 1936 Berlin Olympics a village called Zeesen, located to the south of Berlin, had been home to what was at the time the world’s most powerful short-wave radio transmitter. Between April 1939 and April 1945, Radio Zeesen reached out to the illiterate Muslim masses through daily Arabic programmes, which also went out in Persian and Turkish. At that time listening to the radio in the Arab world took place primarily in public squares or bazaars and coffee houses. No other station was more popular than this Nazi Zeesen service, which skilfully mingled antisemitic propaganda with quotations from the Koran and Arabic music. The Second World War allies were presented as lackeys of the Jews and the picture of the “United Jewish Nations” drummed into the audience. At the same time, the Jews were attacked as the worst enemies of Islam: “The Jew since the time of Muhammad has never been a friend of the Muslim, the Jew is the enemy and it pleases Allah to kill him”.

Since 1941, Zeesen’s Arabic programming had been directed by the Mufti of Jerusalem who had emigrated to Berlin. The Mufti’s aim was to “unite all the Arab lands in a common hatred of the British and Jews”, as he wrote in a letter to Adolf Hitler. Antisemitism, based on the notion of a Jewish world conspiracy, however, was not rooted in Islamic tradition but, rather, in European ideological models.

The Mufti therefore seized on the only instrument that really moved the Arab masses: Islam. He invented a new form of Jew-hatred by recasting it in an Islamic mould. He was the first to translate Christian antisemitism into Islamic language, thus creating an “Islamic antisemitism”. (...)

Radio Zeesen was a success not only in Cairo; it made an impact in Tehran as well:

One of its regular listeners was a certain Ruhollah Khomeini. When in the winter of 1938 the 36-year-old Khomeini returned to the Iranian city of Qom from Iraq he “had brought with him a radio receiver set made by the British company Pye … The radio proved a good buy… Many mullahs would gather at his home, often on the terrace, in the evenings to listen to Radio Berlin and the BBC”, writes his biographer Amir Taheri. Even the German consulate in Tehran was surprised by the success of this propaganda. “Throughout the country spiritual leaders are coming out and saying ‘that the twelfth Imam has been sent into the world by God in the form of Adolf Hitler’” we learn from a report to Berlin in February 1941.

Read article in full

Kuntzel in The Weekly Standard

3 comments:

Chris McClure said...

You can find further evidence of continued influence in my op-ed in the Jerusalem Post - "Reading Mein Kampf in Cairo":

http://www.jpost.com/servlet/Satellite?cid=1191257294704&pagename=JPost%2FJPArticle%2FShowFull

Anonymous said...

It appears Leeds University finally came to their senses, and allowed this lecture to be delivered, after discreditable attempts to have it stopped. Does anybody know how it was received by the audience?

The contemporary college student gets very little exposure to the historical truth about Islamism, Zionism and Arab Nationalism, so every success against the boycotters and sabotagers needs to be celebrated.

In Berkeley, California, figures such as Ehud Barak and Benjamin Netanyahu were prevented from addressing the student body, under the pretext of "security concerns". The politically motivated Berkeley police who issued the ban were acting under orders of the Berkeley city council, who hate Israel and shamelessly repudiate the principles of the Free Speech Movement when prominent Zionists want to make their case.

bataween said...

From the Engage website:
"On Oct 10th at 4:30pm in Leeds University's famous Rupert Beckett lecture theatre, a German academic delivered a lecture that had the audience of some 100+ souls listening attentively and at the end, led to an intelligent and measured discussion on what he had said. In short, we enjoyed a completely normal lecture."