Many people buy into the premise that the World Trade Center attack on September 11 was a result of some misguided foreign policy of the United States. Others believe that Islamist terror attacks began in the 1970s, 1980s or 1990s as a result of something that we, as a country, have done to provoke such an attack.
When confronting an enemy it is helpful to know what it is that drives him. The U.S. and the West need to realistically look at the true motives of Islamic terrorists in order to properly confront them. I will show that Islamic Jihad is not motivated by any specific policies of the U.S. or the West, but instead is principally motivated by a fanatic, obsessive hatred of Jews, and that Islamic Jihad was, and continues to be, strongly influenced by the Nazis.
Despite common misconceptions, modern Islamic Fascism was not born during the 1960s, but during the 1930s. Its rise was not inspired by the failure of Nasserism in Egypt, but by the rise of Nazism in Germany, and prior to 1951 all of its campaigns were directed, not against Western colonialism, but against the Jews.
It was the Muslim Brotherhood , founded in Cairo in 1928, that established Islamic Jihad as a mass movement. The significance of the Muslim Brotherhood to Islamic Fascism is comparable to the significance of the Bolshevik Party to Communism: it was, and it remains to this day, the ideological reference point and the organizational core for all later Islamist groups, including Al Queda and Hamas.
While British colonial policy contributed to the rise of Islamic radicalism, the Brotherhood’s jihad was not directed against the British, but focused almost exclusively on Zionism and the Jews.
Membership in the Brotherhood rose from 800 members in 1936 to over 200,000 in 1938. In those two years the Brotherhood conducted a major campaign in Egypt, and it was against the Jews, not against the British occupiers. This campaign against the Jews, in the late 1930s, which established the Brotherhood as a mass movement of Islamic Jihadists, was set off by a rebellion in Palestine directed against Jewish immigration from Europe and Russia. That campaign was initiated by the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem , Haj Muhammed Amin al-Husseini.
Al-Husseini was extremely impressed with Adolf Hitler and his anti-Jewish rhetoric. In 1941 he visited Hitler in Berlin. He was so enthralled with Hitler and the Nazis, and their plans to exterminate the Jews that he decided to remain in Berlin. He lived there from 1941 to 1945, recruiting Muslims in Europe for the Waffen-SS. He was very close to Hitler. Husseini’s best friends were Heinrich Himmler and Adolf Eichmann.
He convinced Hitler that he would be able to persuade his Muslim brothers in the Arab world to carry out the extermination of Jews in the Middle East, just as the Nazis were doing in Europe.
In November, 1943, In appreciation of the work that al-Husseini was doing in exterminating Jews, Himmler wrote him the following telegram :
“To the Grand Mufti: The National Socialist movement of Greater Germany has, since its inception, inscribed upon its flag the fight against the world Jewry. It has therefore followed with particular sympathy the struggle of freedom-loving Arabs, especially in Palestine, against Jewish interlopers. In the recognition of this enemy and of the common struggle against it lies the firm foundation of the natural alliance that exists between the National Socialist Greater Germany and the freedom-loving Muslims of the whole world. In this spirit I am sending you on the anniversary of the infamous Balfour declaration my hearty greetings and wishes for the successful pursuit of your struggle until the final victory. Signed: Reichsfuehrer S.S. Heinrich Himmler”
In his memoirs after the war, Al-Husseini noted that “Our fundamental condition for cooperating with Germany was a free hand to eradicate every last Jew from Palestine and the Arab world. I asked Hitler for an explicit undertaking to allow us to solve the Jewish problem in a manner befitting our national and racial aspirations and according to the scientific methods innovated by Germany in the handling of its Jews.” The answer I got from the Fuehrer was: ‘The Jews are yours.'”
The Muslim Brotherhood organized mass demonstrations in Egyptian cities during the late 1930s under the slogans, “Down with the Jews”, “Jews get out of Egypt and Palestine”, and the like. 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.”
The Brotherhood’s campaign against the Jews in the 1936-1938 period used not only Nazi tactics, but also significant Nazi funding . As the respected Norwegian historian Brynjar Lia recounted in his monograph on the Muslim Brotherhood, “Documents seized in the flat of Willhelm Stellbogen, the Director of the German News Agency in Cairo, show that prior to 1939 the Muslim Brotherhood received financial subsidies from the German Legation in Cairo. Stellbogen was instrumental in transferring these funds from the Nazi regime to the Muslim Brotherhood.”
From August 1938 through the end of the Second World War, Amin al-Husseini received financial and military assistance and supplies from Nazi Germany and from fascist Italy, which he sent to Egypt and Palestine. From Berlin, al-Husseini played a significant role in inter-Arab politics.
At the same time, the Muslim Brotherhood became the first organization to propagate, in modern times, the archaic idea of a belligerent and violent jihad and the culture of longing for death. In 1938, Hassan al-Banna, the Brotherhood’s charismatic founder, published his concept of Jihad in an article titled “The Industry of Death.” He wrote: “To a nation that perfects the industry of death and which knows how to die nobly, Allah gives proud life in this world, and eternal grace in the world to come.”
This slogan was enthusiastically taken up by the “Troops of God”, as the Brothers had begun to call themselves. As they held demonstrations in the late 1930’s in Cairo, marching in fascistic formation they would sing: “We are not afraid of death, we desire it. Let us die to redeem Islam”
The death cult that became a hallmark of modern Islamic Fascism was laced with Jew-hatred from the very beginning. This attitude sprung not only from Nazi influences but it also drew directly on Islamic sources.
First, Islamic Jihadists considered, and still to this day consider, Palestine (that includes present-day Israel) to be an Islamic territory (Dar al-Islam), where, according to the Koran, Jews must not run a single village, let alone a state. At best, in their view, this land should be Jew-free (Judenrein); at the very least Jews there should be relegated to subservient status (dhimmi) and should live under Sharia law. The existence of a Jewish State in Dar al-Islam contradicts the word of the Koran, which is why Muslims are so intent on destroying Israel. So long as Israel exists in Dar-al-Islam, the precepts of the Koran are not being fulfilled. There are a lot of passages in the Koran and in the history of Muhammed and his conquests that give justification to Islamists for the killing of Jews.
In 1946, the Muslim Brotherhood made sure that the Grand Mufti, who was then being sought as a war criminal by both Britain and the U.S. was granted asylum and a new lease on his political life in Egypt.
Al-Husseini had been a close ally of both the Muslim Brotherhood and the Nazis. In addition to directing Muslim SS divisions in the Balkans during the Second World War, he had been personally responsible for blocking negotiations late in the war that might have saved thousands of Jewish children from being exterminated in the gas chambers.
All of this was known in 1946 by both Britain and the U.S. Nonetheless, both chose to forego criminal prosecution of al-Husseini in order to avoid hurting their relations with the Arab world. France, which was holding Al-Husseini, deliberately let him go at the request of the Arab League.
For many in the Arab world, what amounted to amnesty for this prominent Islamist who had spent years broadcasting Nazi propaganda to the Arabs was seen as a vindication of his actions. The Arabs started to view Al-Husseini’s past with pride rather than with shame. Escaped and wanted Nazi criminals now flooded into the Arab world where they knew they would have sanctuary.
The Muslim Brotherhood’s unconditional solidarity with Al-Husseini and with his Nazi compatriots now in the Middle East led to anti-Jewish riots throughout Egypt and the Middle East just months after the liberation of Auschwitz. In 1946, Yugoslavia requested extradition from Egypt of Amin Al-Husseini for War Crimes and Crimes against Humanity. The Egyptian government refused to release him.
After the war, Al-Husseini used his recently acquired Nazi methodology to implement his vision of a Middle East free of Jews. Belief in a worldwide Jewish conspiracy had migrated from Nazi Germany to the Middle East, where it survived and flourished.
An especially striking example of its continuing influence is the charter adopted in 1988 by the Muslim Brotherhood in Palestine, now known as Hamas. In this Charter, the following language appears: Hamas defines itself as the “spearhead and the avant-garde of the struggle against World Zionism.” “The Jews,” the charter explains, “were behind the French Revolution, and the Communist Revolution. They were behind World War I and World War II. There is no war anywhere without the Jews having their hand in it.”
In 1930s and 1940s Europe, the sheer absurdity of the claims made against the Jews by the Nazis made it difficult for educated Europeans to take them seriously. In the Arab world, when the Islamists make the same absurd claims, they are taken very seriously.
Western understanding of Islamic Fascism fails when, instead of acknowledging the fact that Jew-hatred in the Middle East had reached epidemic proportions well before September 11, and that New York was considered the center of World Jewry by Islamic Jihadists, it advances the claim that Islamism originally arose in response to recent American and Western policies.
When the 9/11 Commission report stated that Osama Bin Laden’s grievance with the United States may have started in reaction to specific U.S. policies, the report gets history wrong. Understanding the real motive for Islamic Jihad, and explaining it to the American people, is important if we are going to effectively confront Islamic Fascism.
Gary Aminoff can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org