via Crisis Magazine
by William Kilpatrick
One of the great advantages we have over our ancestors is hindsight. With a clearer picture of the past, we can avoid making the same mistakes they made. But what if we’re not allowed to use our hindsight? What if we’re forced to pretend that what happened in the past bears no relation to what is happening now?
Of course, there’s something to be said for learning from your own mistakes, but some mistakes are so costly that it’s far better to learn about them in history books. The appeasement of the Nazis prior to World War II is an example of the kind of mistake the world can’t afford to repeat. Yet there’s much to suggest that we are engaged in a similar folly today. The rise of Islamism in Europe, Africa, the Middle East, and elsewhere is eerily reminiscent of the rise of Nazism in Europe eighty years ago. By now, anyone with a passing acquaintance with history should have had that hmm-this-rings-a-bell moment. Thanks to our exquisitely sensitive educational system, however, the ranks of those who “don’t know much about history” has swollen to vast proportions. And even those who do know their history know that there are certain comparisons you are not supposed to make—like the one that obtains between Nazis and Islamists. To do so would be offensive to Muslims and to all sorts of other people as well. In other words, it’s not permissible to have the kind of discussion that might help us to avoid the fate suffered by Europe under the Nazis.
As a general rule, it’s best to avoid the Nazi analogy. Nazism represents a uniquely evil moment in history. Labeling every politician you disagree with as a Nazi only serves to dilute the singular horror of the original. Yet in the case of Islamists, the analogy is appropriate. The similarities between the two ideologies are too close to ignore. Moreover, as a point of historical fact, prominent Islamists worked closely with the Nazis during the Second World War. What’s more, even today many Muslims make no secret of their admiration for Hitler. It may be a stretch to call Senator so-and-so a Nazi for employing dirty campaign tricks, but it’s less of a reach to notice a Nazi resemblance when Islamists are so willing to paste a Charlie Chaplin mustache on their upper lip—when, for example, an upscale Turkish mall features posters of Hitler as part of the décor, or when Muslim mobs in Paris attack a synagogue full of Jews, or when prominent imams express a desire to bat cleanup for Hitler.
Finish Hitler’s work? Islamic theologian and scholar Yusuf al-Qaradawi has voiced just such a wish. In a 2009 statement, he called the Holocaust “a divine punishment” of Jews: “The last punishment was carried out by Hitler… Allah willing, the next time will be at the hand of the believers.” Of course, Sheik Qaradawi does not represent the views of all Muslims on the matter. On the other hand, it would not be accurate to say he is out of the mainstream. Qaradawi has held numerous high academic positions in various Middle-Eastern universities; he is chairman of the International Union of Muslim Scholars; he has received eight international prizes for his contributions to Islamic scholarship; and he finished third in a 2008 poll to determine the world’s leading public intellectual. Qaradawi also plays well with the non-scholarly crowd. His popular “Shariah and Life” TV program reaches an estimated worldwide audience of sixty million. In many respects Sheik Qaradawi is Mister Mainstream.
Qaradawi is a relative latecomer to the Hitler fan club, and not even the most prominent. While the Sheik is limited to reaching across the years to congratulate the Führer, Haj Amin al-Husseini, the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, had only to reach across the table. There is a photo of Hitler and Husseini seated knee-to-knee in Hitler’s private office in the Reich Chancellery in November, 1941. The probable topic of conversation?—the quickest way to eliminate the Jews. Speeding up the “Final Solution” was an obsession with Husseini, and he spent hours discussing the matter with the likes of Joachin von Ribbentrop, Heinrich Himmler, and Adolf Eichmann.
The Mufti was no maverick Muslim. According to historians David Dalin and John Rothmann, “With the possible exception of King Ibn Saud of Saudi Arabia, al-Husseini was the most eminent and influential Islamic leader in the Middle East.” (Icon of Evil, p. 5) And he was treated as such by the Nazis, who provided him with five residences and a monthly stipend of over $10,000. In return, al-Husseini recruited more than 100,000 Muslims to fight in the European division of the Waffen-SS.
Hasan al-Banna, the founder of the Muslim Brotherhood and a friend of Husseini, was also impressed with the Nazis, and during the war he worked to establish a formal alliance with Hitler and Mussolini. Moreover, under directions from al-Banna, the Brotherhood Intelligence Service shared information with the Germans on the movements of the British Army.
Islamists and Nazis also shared an interest in anti-Semitic literature. According to Dalin and Rothmann:
Mein Kampf … remains a perennial best-seller in several Islamic countries. After the Six-Day War in 1967, Israeli soldiers discovered that many Egyptian prisoners carried small paperback editions of Mein Kampf, translated into Arabic… (Icon of Evil, p. 113)
Like the Nazis, the Arabs also shared a firm belief in the authenticity of the viciously anti-Semitic tract The Protocols of the Elders of Zion. The first of many Arabic editions was published in 1921. It has been a best-seller in Islamic capitals ever since and remains required reading in many Arab universities. King Faisal was so enamored of the book that he ordered all Saudi hotels to put a copy in every room—presumably right alongside the Gideon Koran.
Unfortunately, the Muslim-Nazi connection is not just of historical interest. Islamists all over the world are acting more and more like Nazis.