The Nazi Roots of Modern Radical Islam
By Tom Knowlton
The recent "Letter to the American People" allegedly authored by Osama bin Laden is a virtual ideological manifesto for Islamic extremists. It serves to outline the perceived grievances of radical Muslims against Israel and the West.
The letter claims, "It is the Muslims who are the inheritors of Moses," dating the conflict between Jews and Arabs back to the Biblical conflict between Abraham's two children: his eldest son, Ishmael (from who Arabs are believed descended), and his younger son, Isaac (from who Jews are believed descended). Some Muslims believe that Isaac usurped Ishmael's birthright.
Likewise, prominent imams such as Abu Qatada, Omar Muhammad Bakri, and Abu Hamza regularly echo this claim that Arabs and Jews have been bitter enemies from the dawn of time.
However, if one examines the history of the Middle East, there is very little evidence of constant warring and animosity between Jews and Arabs.
In fact, when the city of Jerusalem fell to Christian Crusaders in 1099, the defenders of the holy city had been a combined force of Jews and Muslims. After the Crusaders captured the city, they massacred Muslim and Jewish citizens alike and left the survivors to flee Jerusalem. Not until the Muslim hero Saladin defeated the Crusaders in 1187, did the Jewish population even begin to return to Jerusalem.
Jerusalem's Jewish community continued to prosper under the Muslim Nahmanides in 1267. But the community's true renaissance occurred during the 15th and 16th centuries, when a large influx of Jews were welcomed into Jerusalem by the Ottoman Empire after being expelled from Spain.
For four centuries under Ottoman rule, Arab and Jewish neighborhoods peacefully coexisted. After the defeat of the Ottoman Empire in World War I, the region came under British mandate. The early days under the British also saw relatively peaceful coexistence continuing and manifesting itself in the form of Arab and Jewish neighborhoods springing up in the "garden neighborhoods" of Talpiot, Rehavia and Beit Hakerem.
However, after over 700 years of peaceful coexistence, the true start of the Arab-Israeli conflict can be dated to 1920 and the rise of one man, Haj Amin Muhammad Al Husseini, the grand mufti of Jerusalem. As grand mufti, al Husseini presided as the Imam of the Al Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem, the highest Muslim authority in the British mandate.
History shows Al Husseini to be a brutal man with aspirations to rule a pan-Arabic empire in the Middle East. He rose to prominence by actively eliminating those Jews and Arabs he considered a threat to his control of Jerusalem's Arab population, and he heavily utilized anti-Jewish propaganda to polarize the two communities.
In 1920 and again in 1929, Al Husseini incited anti-Jewish riots by claiming the Jews were plotting to destroy the Al Asqa mosque. The riots resulted in the massacre of hundreds of Jewish civilians and a virtual end to the Jewish presence in Hebron.
The 1936 Arab revolt against the British is believed to have been at least partially funded by Nazi Adolf Eichmann, and Al Husseini again ordered armed Arab militias to massacre Jewish citizens.
When British authorities finally quelled the rebellion in 1939, Al Husseini fled to neighboring Iraq and helped to orchestrate a 1941 anti-British jihad. As in Jerusalem, the British successfully put down the rebellion and Al Husseini fled to Nazi Germany.
Al Husseini found the Nazis to be a strong ideological match with his anti-Jewish brand of Islam, and schemed with Hitler and the Nazi hierarchy to create a pro-Nazi pan-Arabic form of government in the Middle East.
Dr. Serge Trifkovic documents the similarities between Al Husseini's brand of radical Islam and Nazism in his book The Sword of the Prophet. He noted parallels in both ideologies: anti-Semitism, quest for world dominance, demand for the total subordination of the free will of the individual, belief in the abolishment of the nation-state in favor of a "higher" community (in Islam the umma or community of all believers; in Nazism, the herrenvolk or master race), and belief in undemocratic governance by a "divine" leader (an Islamic caliph, or Nazi führer).
The Nazis provided Al Husseini with luxurious accommodations in Berlin and a monthly stipend in excess of $10,000. In return, he regularly appeared on German radio touting the Jews as the "most fierce enemies of Muslims," and implored an adoption of the Nazi "final solution" by Arabs. After the Nazi defeat at El Alamein in 1942, Al Husseini broadcast radio messages on Radio Berlin calling for continued Arabic resistance to Allied forces. In time, he came to be known as the "Fuhrer's Mufti" and the "Arab Fuhrer."
In March 1944, Al Husseini broadcast a call for a jihad to "kill the Jews wherever you find them. This pleases God, history, and religion."
On numerous occasions, Al Husseini intervened in the fate of European Jews, most notably blocking Adolph Eichmann's deal with the Red Cross to exchange Jewish children for German POWs.
Moreover, Al Husseini personally recruited Bosnia Muslims for the German Waffen SS, including the Skanderberg Division from Albania and Hanjer Division from Bosnia. The Hanjer (Saber) Division of the Waffen SS was responsible for the murder of over 90 percent of the Yugoslavian Jewish population.
SS leader Heinrich Himmler was so pleased with Al Husseini's Muslim Nazis that he established the Dresden-based Mullah Military School for their continued recruitment and training. In 1944, Hanjer commandos parachuted into Tel Aviv and poisoned drinking wells in Jewish communities in an effort to stir up ethnic tensions.
After the fall of Nazi Germany, Al Husseini fled to Cairo, Egypt in 1946 rather than face war crime charges for his actions in Yugoslavia. But he continued his operations.
In the late 1940s and early 1950s, Al Husseini worked closely with a pro-fascist group in Egypt called Young Egypt. In 1952 Gamal Abdul Nasser, a prominent member of Young Egypt, was among military officers who seized control of the Egyptian government from King Fu'ad. Al Husseini is reported to have been responsible for bringing Otto Skorzeny, the Nazi commando once labeled by the OSS as "the most dangerous man in Europe," into the employ of the Nasser government.
Similarly, Al Husseini had a strong influence over the founding members of both the Iraqi and Syrian Ba'ath party. Strong evidence exists that al Husseini was instrumental in the arranging of Nazi war criminal Alois Brunner's employment as an advisor to the Syrian general staff.
However, al Husseini's central role in the creation of the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) in 1964 is perhaps his most indelible mark on the Middle East today.
The radical Imam was the spiritual mentor of the first chairman of the PLO, Ahmed Shukairi, and saw that much of his ideology was instilled in the organization. More importantly, Al Husseini used his extensive connections to recruit financial supporters for the PLO throughout the Arab world.
Almost 30 years after al Husseini's death in 1974, the Palestinian people still revere him as a hero and embrace his radical theology. The "Arab Fuhrer's" close Nazi association and virulent anti-Semitism is perhaps the reason that Hitler's Meinf Kampf is ranked as the sixth all-time bestseller among Palestinian Arabs.
Several of his descendants remain active in Palestinian affairs today.
Al Husseini's grandson, Faisal Husseini, was part of the PLO since 1964 and served as minister without portfolio in the Palestinian National Authority, with responsibility for Jerusalem until his death in May 2001.
The radical imam's nephew, Rahman Abdul Rauf el-Qudwa el Husseini, has been a major player in Palestinian terrorism for almost 40 years. He was the guiding force behind the merging of the Fatah faction into the PLO. In 1990, Rahman Abdul Rauf el-Qudwa el Husseini was responsible for the Palestinian community's support of Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein's invasion of Kuwait.
Most Mideast observers today recognize the younger Al Husseini by the secular name he adopted as his own in 1952, Yasser Arafat.
By the late 1980's many of the PLO's radical Muslim financiers had become disillusioned with the increasingly secular nature of the Palestinian movement. Yasser Arafat's support of Saddam Hussein in the early 1990s strongly angered and prompted many of these extremists in the Persian Gulf states to reduce or all together withdraw their financial backing of the PLO.
An astute emerging Sunni terrorist, Osama bin Laden, capitalized upon Arafat's political misstep and transformed his al Qaeda organization into the prime recipient of financial support from Sunni Muslim radicals. That funding has enabled bin Laden to wage terrorist attacks on western and Israeli interests for over a decade. His most recent "Letter to the American People" echoed al Husseini's propaganda claim that "the Israelis are planning to destroy the Al Aqsa mosque."
The is little doubt that throughout history the Arabs and Jews have encountered the kind of friction that comes from any two distinct religious or ethnic groups sharing the same geography. However, that history has largely been one of relatively peaceful coexistence.
The divergence from that pattern occurs in 1920 with the rise of a virulent anti-Semitic mufti of Jerusalem whose ideology embodied more similarities to that of Nazi Germany than to the historical Islam of Saladin or the Ottoman Turks.
The wave of extremist Islam that has plagued the world in the latter days of the 20th century and into the opening days of the 21st, has little to do with ancient history or Islam. The cause lays largely at the feet of Haj Amin Muhammad Al Husseini, who utilized murder and anti-Semitism to consolidate his power over his fellow Arabs and further his personal quest to be caliph of the pan-Arab world.