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Debating the Islamist-Nazi Connection By: Frontpagemag.com
FrontPageMagazine.com | Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Bostom Misses the Islamist-Nazi Connection
by Matthias Küntzel

On 30 November 2007 FrontPage Magazine published a lengthy and hostile article by Andrew G. Bostom on my book Jihad and Jew-Hatred: Islamism, Nazism and the Roots of 9/11, entitled “Brothers of Invention?”. I say “hostile” rather than “critical” since even the most negative critique of a book assumes that the reader gets to find out what the work in question is actually about.

Not so in this case.

Indeed, in the course of his 22-pages Bostom never once mentions my book’s subtitle, “Islamism, Nazism and the roots of 9/11”, which explains the purpose of the work. That purpose is to show how Islamism arose in the 1920s and 30s, what role National Socialism played in this development, and how there emerged that specifically Islamic antisemitism, drawing on both Koranic and modern European sources, which has characterized Islamist ideology from its inception to today.

Instead of dealing with the point I am making and assessing whether my analysis is right, Bostom is chiefly exercised by the fact that I failed to write a totally different book. The bulk of his piece consists of comments about the early centuries of Islam, a subject that clearly interests the reviewer much more than the topic of my work. In fact, I frequently refer to this early history[1], but the focus is on the historical period in which the most important Islamist organization – the Muslim Brotherhood - and the associated Islamic antisemitism were born.

It is true and well known that the separation from and hatred of the Jews began with Muhammad’s activities in Medina and is a constitutive element of Islam. Anti-Judaism as laid down in the Koran, however, is not the same as antisemitism as laid down in “The Protocols of the Elders of Zion“. Mediaeval Jew-hatred considered everything Jewish to be evil. Modern antisemitism, on the other hand, deems all “evil” to be Jewish. In the former case the Jew could save his life through acceptance of the rules of dhimmitude or conversion to Christianity (or Islam). In the latter case, what is involved is not just oppression or conversion, but an irrational belief that the salvation of the world depends on the destruction of the Jews. My particular topic is not the root cause of dhimmitude but the root cause of modern antisemitism within the Islamic world.

What was the importance of Koranic Jew-hatred for the subsequent adoption of Nazi antisemitism in the Islamic world? Conversely, what role did this Nazi antisemitism play in the revival of Islamically motivated Jew-hatred? These questions have yet to find a definitive answer. They require a serious and scientific debate.

Take the example of the especially hate-filled hadith of al-Bukhari which comes closest to anticipating the rhetoric of modern antisemitism and for this very reason appears in the 1988 Hamas Charter: “The hour of judgement shall not come” it reads, “until the Muslims fight the Jews and kill them, so that the Jews hide behind trees and stones, and each tree and stone will say: ‘Oh Muslim, oh servant of Allah, there is a Jew behind me, come and kill him’.” According to one of Israel’s leading Arabists, Yehoshua Porath, no mention of this hadith can be found anywhere in Arabic literature after at least 1870.[2] It had fallen into oblivion until its reappearance in 1937 in a statement by the Mufti of Jerusalem. In 1938 it was publicized in German by the Nazis and then disseminated in the Arabic world via the Arabic-language short-wave radio transmitter set up by the Nazis in the vicinity of Berlin.

So the mere existence of a hate-filled text tells us nothing about social reality and the uses that may or may not be made of that text. My concern, however, is precisely with this reality in all its complexity.

I show that around 1925 the Jews were an accepted and protected part of public life in Egypt: they had members of parliament, were employed at the royal palace and occupied important positions in the economic and political field. 25 years later, all that was in the past: in 1945, the worst anti-Jewish pogroms in Egyptian history took place. My book analyses “the reasons, why, between 1925 and 1945, a shift in direction was effected in Egypt from a rather neutral or pro-Jewish mood to a rabidly anti-Jewish one, a shift which changed the whole Arab world and affects it to this day.”

Bostom devotes not a single syllable to this. My “quintessential argument“, he asserts, “is that Hassan al-Banna and the Muslim Brotherhood (and associated 20th century ideologues such as Sayyid Qutb) ,invented’ jihad war as a sui generis phenomenon”. But the word “invention” does not appear in my book; I use the term “innovation”. Moreover I never deal with jihad “sui generis”, but in the context of the twentieth century and the Arab world.

“Al-Banna called the Muslim Brothers’ concept of Islam ‘the Islam of Muslim Brothers’, as it represented a new understanding of Islam at the time” writes Abd Al-Fattah Muhammad Al-Awaisi, who also writes, “What concerns us here about this new understanding is the concept of jihad, which had been almost absent from Islamic education before the foundation of the Muslim Brothers. Muslim groups of the time paid no attention to it. Political parties were involved with political struggles and mosque Imams and preachers treated jihad as irrelevant to their religious brief.”[3]

In analyzing the roots of Islamism as a modern mass movement which came into being during the same decade as Fascism and National Socialism I am concentrating on the particular. Bostom’s approach on the other hand is one of generalization. He talks about “the permanent Islamic institution of jihad” and of “Islam’s foundational, continuously expressed Jew-hatred”. I can hardly require Bostom to take up the challenge my book presents to his generalizing approach. But I can, I believe, reasonably expect to find a genuine review of my book in Frontpage Magazine - one that is critical, but not hostile.

[1] See, for example, Jihad and Jew-Hatred: Islamism, Nazism and the Roots of 9/11 (New York, Telos 2007), pp. 9, 34, 60, 65-6, 82-3, 140 and 152-3. In texts with other priorities, such as my writings on antisemitism in Iran, I have given greater weight to the Islamic antisemitism of the 16th to 19th centuries than to Nazi influence. See Matthias Küntzel, ‘Unholy Hatreds: Holocaust Denial and Antisemitism in Iran’, Posen Papers in Contemporary Antisemitism No. 8 (The Vidal Sassoon International Center for the Study of Antisemitism, The Hebrew University of Jerusalem 2007).

[2] In a conversation with the author in March 2006.

[3] Abd Al-Fattah Mohammad Al-Awaisi, The Muslim Brothers and the Palestine Question 1928-1947 (London-New York, Tauris Academic Studies, 1988) p. 124.

Matthias Küntzel is a German political scientist and writer (
www.matthiaskuentzel.de) with many publications in American journals such as "The Weekly Standard".


Wrath of Con?
By Andrew Bostom

Matthias Kuntzel complains that my review largely ignored his book, and its thesis. What he actually laments is that I took his thesis seriously, and found it seriously wanting. Nothing Kuntzel now presents in reply, or what he wrote in his book, addresses my original criticisms:

"Kuntzel apparently misunderstands (and regardless, misrepresents) the basics of jihad, ignoring classical theory and practice. He then proceeds to describe the Muslim Brotherhood’s jihad ideology as a sui generis phenomenon divorced entirely from its intimate connection to a nearly 1400 year old Islamic institution, a salient characteristic of which was, and remains, its continuity. According to Kuntzel (from p. 13),

The [Muslim] Brotherhood's most significant innovation was their concept of jihad as holy war, which significantly differed from other contemporary doctrines and, associated with that, the passionately pursued goal of dying a martyr's death in the war with the unbeliever.

Before the founding of the Brotherhood, Islamic currents of modern times had understood jihad (derived from a root signifying "effort") as the individual striving for belief or the missionary task of disseminating Islam. Only when this missionary work was hindered were they allowed to use force to defend themselves against the unbelievers resistance. The starting point of Islamism is the new interpretation of jihad espoused with uncompromising militancy by Hassan al-Bana, the first to preach this kind of jihad in modern times.

…Kuntzel also asserts (on p. 79) that Muslim Brotherhood founder Hasan al-Banna, and his contemporary “Islamist” heirs developed the “principle of [Islamic] dominance,” or more specifically, the concepts of Dar al Islam and Dar al Harb (Arabic for, “The House of Islam and the House of War”). In reality, al-Banna merely reiterated what classical Islamic jurists had formulated, and Islamic dynasties (major and minor alike) had practiced continually, for over a millennium.

…(in 1916), the great Dutch Orientalist Hurgronje noted the wide rank and file support among the Muslim masses for a restored Caliphate even at the very nadir of Islam's political power. And here is an extract from an article that appeared in the Calcutta Guardian in 1924 which linked the Pan-Islamic Indian Khilafat (Caliphate) Movement to trends that developed, and intensified following the Russo-Turkish War of 1876-78, fifty years prior to the advent of the Muslim Brotherhood in 1928:

The Islamic World was aroused to the fact that the area of Islamic independence was steadily narrowing, and the Qur’anic theory that Islam should dominate over every other religion was giving way to the contrary system. It was felt that the only Muslim power which could deal with those of Europe as an equal was Turkey; and pan-Islamism everywhere inculcated the doctrine that Turkey should be strengthened and supported. The Sultan was urged to advance through Persia into India and make common cause with the Sudanese Mehdi, and restore Egypt to an Islamic Sovereign.

… Kuntzel’s conception of Islamic Jew hatred suffers from the same severe limitations described for his analysis of jihad. He provides only the barest, glaringly deficient outline of the theology and historical practice of this unique form of antisemitism, confined as it is to a mere four pages of discussion (pp. 33; 64-66), and accompanying footnotes. As per Kuntzel, only in Christian “mythology” (not its Islamic equivalent—whatever is meant by his term “mythology—a term, curiously, he does not apply here to Islam) were Jews depicted “constantly” as a “dark and demonic force,” leading (again, only in Christendom) to “anti-Jewish pogroms.” (No such “Medieval pogroms” in Islamdom are mentioned by the author in the context of this discussion, leaving the reader to assume, incorrectly, that none occurred.) Kuntzel ascribes these uniquely Christian phenomena (i.e., implicitly, both the theological, or “mythological” Jew hatred of Christianity, and resultant pogroms) to “simple” origins, which he cannot find (or more aptly, bother to research with any degree of seriousness) in Islam…"

My review included but a few salient examples of the vast array (see here, and here) of doctrinal and historical evidence Kuntzel’s untenable thesis ignores, or misconstrues, whether out of ignorance, or by design.. The yawning gap of omissions (and significant self-contradictions) aside, perhaps more unsettling is Kuntzel’s selective citation, and excerpting. I provide two egregious examples: the redacted discussion of Albert Speer’s memoirs which omits Hiter’s effusive praise for Islam, including the Nazi leader’s resentment that Germany had not been Islamized during the 8th (through 11th) century Muslim jihadist forays throughout Europe; and the disingenuous misrepresentation of Sheikh Tantawi’s 700 pp. scholarly treatise elaborating (and extolling) Jew hatred in the Koran, and Sunna, which is reduced, pace Kuntzel, to a few passing remarks on Nazism and the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, completely obfuscating its actual Islamic contents, and Islamic “thesis.”

Kuntzel’s reply (and book) ignore another important aspect of my review as well. I included a discussion of the fact that writings produced for 100 years between the mid-19th through mid-20th centuries, by major scholars and intellectuals—for example, the historians Jacob Burckhardt and Waldemar Gurian, philosopher Bertrand Russell, Carl Jung, the founder of modern analytical psychiatry, Protestant theologian Karl Barth, sociologist Jules Monnerot, and most notably, the renowned 20th century scholar of Islamic Law, G.H. Bousquet—all referred to Islam as a despotic, or in 20th century parlance, totalitarian ideology. Kuntzel further chose to ignore a brilliant, dispassionate contemporary analysis by Ibn Warraq which describes 14 characteristics of “Ur Fascism” as enumerated by Umberto Eco, and analyzes their potential relationship to the major determinants of Islamic governance and aspirations, through the present. Warraq adduces salient examples which reflect the key attributes discussed by Eco: the unique institution of jihad war; the establishment of a Caliphate under “Allah’s vicegerent on earth,” the Caliph—ruled by Islamic Law, i.e., Shari’a, a rigid system of subservience and sacralized discrimination against non-Muslims and Muslim women, devoid of basic freedoms of conscience, and expression. And Kuntzel even chose to ignore Nazi academic and propagandist of extermination Johannes von Leers. Leers, whose pious writings on Islam (which antedated his conversion to Islam by two decades!) and personal career trajectory—as a favored contributor in Goebbel’s propaganda ministry, to his eventual adoption of the Muslim religion (as “Omar Amin” von Leers—Omar, for Caliph Omar; Amin, for Hajj Amin el-Husseini) while working as an anti-Western, and antisemitic/anti-Zionist propagandist under Nasser’s regime from the mid-1950s, until his death in 1965—epitomizes the convergence of jihad, Islamic antisemitism, and racist, Nazi anti-Semitism. Simply put, Kuntzel decided to ignore all these seamless doctrinal, and historical connections between ancient Islam, and modern totalitarianism, especially Nazism.

Kuntzel’s reply (and book) also fail to make clear that the early 20th century period he is lionizing in Egypt was one under British colonial rule during which a short-lived experiment in Western style secularism took place. This proves nothing about “flexible interpretations” of the Koran, since Koran-inspired Shari’a doctrines, i.e. dhimmitude, were precisely what was being sidelined. And even during this “ecumenical” period, in 1910, when the Coptic Prime Minister Boutros Ghali was assassinated by a Muslim, the assassin (Wardani) became a national hero, acclaimed by hordes of students taking to the streets and proclaiming, “Wardani, Wardani, that slew the Nazarene.” It is also completely ahistorical for Kuntzel to claim, “…in 1945, the worst anti-Jewish pogroms in Egyptian history took place.” Kuntzel blithely ignores all of the following events which wrought tremendous devastation to Egyptian Jewry under Muslim rule, up to a millennium before the advent of the Muslim Brotherhood: the murderous persecutions of al-Hakim during the early 11th century, one of which was timed for Passover in 1012; Jews in Alexandria and Cairo being pogromed and plundered in 1047, 1168, 1265, and 1324; and Sultan Baybars in the 13th century blaming Jews for starting a plague, and subjecting them to extortion, massacre, and expulsion. Moreover, even the 1945 pogrom itself was not an isolated attack on Jews, but involved general anti-dhimmi (i.e., indigenous Christian, especially Copt), and anti-colonial (European) ravages perpetrated by the Muslim rioters

Despite the false assertion by al-Awaisi cited in Kuntzel’s reply, teaching Egyptian school children anti-infidel jihad hatred is clearly a long, ongoing , and ignoble tradition even within the modern era, which was also not an invention, or “innovation” of the Muslim Brotherhood. As the scholar E. W. Lane reported after several years of residence in both Cairo and Luxor (initially in 1825-1828, then in 1833-1835),

I am credibly informed that children in Egypt are often taught at school, a regular set of curses to denounce upon the persons and property of Christians, Jews, and all other unbelievers in the religion of Mohammad. 1

An updated 19th century publication of Lane’s original work included this jihadist prayer, below, recited daily by Egyptian Muslim schoolchildren, containing a typical curse on non-Muslims, translated (by Lane’s nephew) from a contemporary 19th century Arabic text:

I seek refuge with God from Satan the accursed. In the name of God, the Compassionate, the Merciful. O God, aid El-Islam, and exalt the word of truth, and the faith, by the preservation of thy servant and the son of thy servant, the Sultan of the two continents (Europe and Asia), and the Khakan (Emperor or monarch) of the two seas [the Mediterranean and Black Seas], the Sultan, son of the Sultan (Mahmood) Khan (the reigning Sultan when this prayer was composed). O God, assist him, and assist his armies, and all the forces of the Muslims: O Lord of the beings of the whole world. O God, destroy the infidels and polytheists, thine enemies, the enemies of the religion. O God, make their children orphans, and defile their abodes, and cause their feet to slip, and give them and their families, and their households and their women and their children and their relations by marriage and their brothers and their friends and their possessions and their race and their wealth and their lands as booty to the Muslims: O Lord of the beings of the whole world.”(Emphasis added.) 2

And Lane’s testimony on the difference between the attitude of Egyptian Muslims toward the Jews and the Christians again highlights the influence of Koran 5:82, a century before such verses would be “exploited” by the Muslim Brotherhood, or Hajj Amin el-Husseini, let alone Nazi propagandists:

They [the Jews] are held in the utmost contempt and abhorrence by the Muslims in general, and they are said to bear a more inveterate hatred than any other people to the Muslims and the Muslim religion. It is said, in the Koran [quoting 5:82] “Thou shalt surely find the most violent all men to those who have believed to be the Jews…” 3

Lane further notes, 4

It is a common saying among the Muslims in this country, “Such one hates me with the hate of the Jews.” We cannot wonder, then, that the Jews are detested far more than are the Christians. Not long ago, they used often to be jostled in the streets of Cairo, and sometimes beaten for merely passing on the right hand of a Muslim. At present, they are less oppressed: but still they scarcely ever dare to utter a word of abuse when reviled or beaten unjustly by the meanest Arab or Turk; for many a Jew has been put to death upon a false and malicious accusation of uttering disrespectful words against the Koran or the Prophet. It is common to hear an Arab abuse his jaded ass, and, after applying to him various opprobrious epithets, end by calling the beast a Jew.

Kuntzel’s discussion also omits a series of subsequent 19th century accounts which validate and expand upon Lane’s narrative regarding the pervasive Egyptian Muslim Jew hatred which was endemic well before the rise of the Muslim Brotherhood. For example, the French surgeon A.B. Clot who resided in Egypt from 1825 to1848, and served Muhammad Ali as a medical adviser, earning the honorific title, “Bey”, made these confirmatory observations written in 1840, five years after Lane’s travelogue first appeared in 1835: 5

The Israelite race is the one that the Muslims hate the most. They think that the Jews hate Islam more than any other nation…Speaking of a fierce enemy, the Muslims say: “He hates me the way the Jews hate us.” During the past century, the Israelites were often put to death because they were accused rightly or wrongly to have something disrespectful about the Koran.

And three decades later, such hateful attitudes directed at the Jews specifically, persisted among Egyptian Muslims, as recorded in 1873 by Moritz Lüttke: 6

The Muslim hates no other religion as he hates that of the Jews…even now that all forms of political oppression have ceased, at a time when such great tolerance is shown to the Christian population, the Arabs still bear the same contemptuous hatred of the Jews. It is a commonplace occurrence, for example, for two Arabs reviling each other to call each other Ibn Yahudi (or “son of a Jew”) as the supreme insult…it should be mentioned that in these cases, they pronounce the word Yahudi in a violent and contemptuous tone that would be hard to reproduce.

Jacob Landau’s modern analysis of Egyptian Jewry in the 19th century elucidates the predictable outcome of these bigoted archetypes “constantly repeated in various forms”—the escalation from rhetorical to physical violence against Jews: 7

…it is interesting to note that even the fallahin, the Egyptian peasantry (almost all of them Muslim) certainly did not know many Jews at close quarters, but nevertheless would revile them. The enmity some Muslims felt for the Jews incited them to violence, persecution, and physical assault, as in 1882…Hostility was not necessarily the result of envy, for many Jews were poverty-stricken and even destitute and were sometimes forced to apply for financial assistance to their co- religionists abroad.

Finally, Kuntzel’s reply invokes an unreferenced observation by the Israeli scholar Y. Porath to assert that “no mention” of the apocalyptic canonical hadith from Sahih Muslim [Book 041, Number 6985] and Sahih Bukhari [Volume 4, Book 52, Number 176] (famously included in the Hamas Charter, in article 7) can be found in Arabic literature until “after at least 1870.” Really? Just how do we know that this canonical hadith was not invoked by those whom a serious scholar of Islam’s anti-Jewish polemic, Moshe Perlmann, referred to in this assessment?

The Koran, of course became a mine of anti-Jewish passages. The hadith did not lag behind. Popular preachers used and embellished such material.

Even if for the sake of argument, one were to accept Kuntzel’s entirely unproven assertion regarding these apocalyptic hadith, his related discussion demonstrates a complete ignorance of how Islamic jihad, dhimmitude, and Jew hatred operate within a coherent theology-jurisprudence, expressed during 14 centuries of history.

According to the full range of hadith concerning the Jews, stubborn malevolence is the Jews defining worldly characteristic: rejecting Muhammad and refusing to convert to Islam out of jealousy, envy and even selfish personal interest, lead them to acts of treachery, in keeping with their inveterate nature, as Geroges Vajda’s seminal 1937 analysis of the anti-Jewish motifs in the hadith revealed: “...sorcery, poisoning, assassination held no scruples for them.” These archetypes sanction Muslim hatred towards the Jews, and the admonition, Vajda notes, to at best, “subject [the Jews] to Muslim domination,” as dhimmis, treated “with contempt,” under certain “humiliating arrangements.” Muslim eschatology, as depicted in the hadith, highlights the Jews’ supreme hostility to Islam, which Kuntzel ignores altogether. The Jews are described as adherents of the Dajjâl—the Muslim equivalent of the Anti-Christ—or according to another tradition, the Dajjâl is himself Jewish. At his appearance, other traditions maintain that the Dajjâl will be accompanied by 70,000 Jews from Isfahan wrapped in their robes, and armed with polished sabers, their heads covered with a sort of veil. When the Dajjâl is defeated, his Jewish companions will be slaughtered— everything will deliver them (up except for the so-called gharkad tree), as per the lone canonical hadith motif Kuntzel does cite. Another hadith variant, which takes place in Jerusalem, has Isa (the Muslim Jesus) leading the Arabs in a rout of the Dajjâl and his company of 70,000 armed Jews. And the notion of jihad “ransom” extends even into Islamic eschatology—on the day of resurrection the vanquished Jews will be consigned to Hellfire, and this will expiate Muslims who have sinned, sparing them from this fate.

Kuntzel fails to comprehend what the Nazi convert to Islam Johannes Omar Amin von Leers (whom Kuntzel chose to ignore), described so accurately in a 1942 essay:

They [the Jews] were subjected to a very restrictive and oppressive special regulation that completely crippled Jewish activities. All reporters of the time when the Islamic lands still completely obeyed their own laws agree that the Jews were particularly despised…Mohammed's opposition to the Jews undoubtedly had an effect—oriental Jewry was completely paralyzed by Islam. Its back was broken…Scorned, the Jews vegetated in the dirty alleys of the mellah…

The rise of Jewish nationalism—Zionism—posed a predictable, if completely unacceptable challenge to the Islamic order—jihad-imposed chronic dhimmitude for Jews—of apocalyptic magnitude. As Bat Ye’or has explained,

…because divine will dooms Jews to wandering and misery, the Jewish state appears to Muslims as an unbearable affront and a sin against Allah. Therefore it must be destroyed by Jihad.

Historian Saul S. Friedman, also citing the emergence of Zionism (as an ideology anathema to the Islamic system of dhimmitude for Jews), concluded that this modern movement, and the creation of the Jewish State of Israel has, not surprisingly, unleashed a torrent of annihilationist Islamic antisemitism, “the brew of thirteen centuries of intolerance”:

Since 1896, the development of modern, political Zionism has placed new tension on, and even destroyed, the traditional master-serf relationship that existed between Arab and Jew in the Middle East. An Arab world that could not tolerate the presence of a single, “arrogant” Jewish vizier in its history was now confronted by a modern state staffed with self-confident Jewish ministers.

This is exactly the Islamic context—completely ignored by Kuntzel—in which the widespread, “resurgent” use of Jew annihilationist apocalyptic motifs would be an expected occurrence, regardless of general European, or specific “Nazi” influences.

(*My apologies to Gene Rodenberry and Ricardo Montalban, a “Khan” for the ages)

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