Paul Berman and Islam — A Bridge Too Far?
By Andrew Bostom
Berman Ignores the Inspiration Prominent Nazis, Including Hitler, Derived from Normative Islam Before, During, and After World War Two
Concordance between Nazism and Islamic jihadism reflects an historical continuum evident since the advent of the Nazi movement. This nexus was already apparent in Hitler’s own observations from 1926, elaborated upon over the following decades by both the Nazi leader, and other key Nazi officials, and ideologues. Not surprisingly, there are two predominant, recurring themes in this discourse: jihad as total war, and the annihilationist jihad against the Jews.
Perhaps the earliest recorded evidence of Hitler’s serious interest in the jihad was provided by Muhammad ‘Inayat Allah Khan [who adopted the pen name “al-Mashriqi” — “the Orientalist” or “the Sage of the East”]. Born in the Punjab in 1888, al-Mashriqi was a Muslim polymath who attended Cambridge on a government scholarship, and excelled in the study of oriental languages, mathematics, engineering, and the sciences.
Not only did Mashriqi translate the standard abridged version of Mein Kampf (then commonly available) from English into Urdu, during one of his sojourns in Europe, which included time spent in Berlin, he met Hitler in the early years of the Fuehrer’s leadership of the National Socialist [Nazi] Party. Their meeting took place in 1926 at the National Library. Here is the gist of Mashriqi’s report on his interaction with Hitler as described in a letter to the renowned scholar of Indian Islam, J.M.S. Baljon:
I was astounded when he [Hitler] told me that he knew about my Tazkirah. The news flabbergasted me… I found him very congenial and piercing. He discussed Islamic Jihad with me in details. In 1930 I sent him my Isharat concerning the Khaksar movement with a picture of a spade-bearer Khaksar at the end of that book. In 1933 he started his Spade Movement.
Mashriqi also wrote this independent summary of his 1926 encounter with Hitler on May 31, 1935:
If I had known that this was the very man who was to become Germany’s savior I would have fallen around Hitler’s neck, but on the occasion I was engaged in small talk and tried to find out what he understood about Germany’s weakness at the time. Professor [Weil, the host] said, introducing Hitler to me: “This is also a very important man, an activist from the Worker’s Party.” We shook hands and Hitler said, pointing to a book that was lying on the table: “I had a chance to read your al-Tazkirah.” Little did I understand at that time, what should have been clear to me when he said these words!
The astonishing similarities — or shall we say the unintentional similarity between two great minds — between Hitler’s great book and the teachings of my Tazkirah and Isharat embolden me, because the fifteen years of “struggle” of the author [Hitler] of “My Struggle” [Mein Kampf] have now actually led his nation back to success. But only after leading his nation to the intended goal, has he disclosed his movement’s rules and obligations to the world; only after fifteen years has he made the means of success widely known. It is possible that he has arrived at those means and doctrines by trial and error, but it should be absolutely clear that Mashriqi [referring to himself in the third person] has identified those means and doctrines in al-Tazkirah a full nine years and in the Isharat a full three years before the success of the Nazi movement, simply by following the shining guidance of the Holy Koran.
Mashriqi founded the Khaksar Movement, an Indian Muslim separatist (i.e., promoting the Pakistan “idea”), and global jihad supremacist organization. Its ethos is revealed in Mashriqi’s writings (for example, his Qaul-i-Faysel): “…we [Muslims] have again to dominate the whole world. We have to become its conqueror and its rulers.” His widely circulated pamphlet Islam ki Askari Zindagi further declared: “The Koran has proclaimed in unequivocal words to the world that the Prophet was sent with the true religion and definite instruction that he should make all other religions subservient to this religion [Islam]…”
Mashriqi emphasized repeatedly in his pamphlets and published articles that the verity of Islam could be gauged by the rate of the earliest Muslim conquests in the glorious first decades after the Muslim prophet Muhammad’s death (Mashriqi’s estimate is “36,000 castles in 9 years, or 12 per day”). He asserted “Nearly three-quarters” of the Koran concerns conquest, jihad (holy war), and related themes. And Mashriqi reminded that the Koran promises hellfire to all those who do not participate in Jihad bi-l-saif (“jihad with the sword”), or object to it. Mashriqi also believed the Koran’s jihad verses confirmed that if a Muslim fought for the cause of Islam, this action alone was sufficient for his salvation, requiring no other good deeds. According to Mashriqi, Islam’s “five pillars” — the confession of the oneness of Allah and Muhammad’s prophetic mission, the ritual prayer five times daily, the pilgrimage (haj) to Mecca, the giving of alms, and the fast in the month of Ramadan — were all aspects of military exercise: the confession of faith actually meant that the true Muslim had to forsake all worldly gains in the interest of military revival, prayer (to be performed in uniform and in a regimented way) was a kind of military drill, the haj was something like a grand counsel of Muslim soldiers where plans against enemies could be formulated, the fast was a preparation for the deprivations of siege warfare, the giving of alms, lastly, was a means of raising funds for Muslim re-armament. In short, he stated, “To leave the martial way of life is tantamount to leaving Islam.”
But it was the “Ten Principles” Mashriqi elucidated in the Tazkirah — the work Hitler discussed with him in 1926 — which produced a quintessential message of Islam enshrining the ideals of militaristic nation-building. This vision sounded almost identical to sections of Hitler’s Mein Kampf (compare to Adolf Hitler, Mein Kampf, pp. 169-179, Reynal and Hitchcock trans, 1941) — certainly in the following paraphrase from al-Tazkirah prepared by some of Mashriqi’s colleagues for foreign consumption:
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A persistent application of, and action on these Ten Principles is the true significance of” fitness” in the Darwinian [sic] principle of “Survival of the Fittest”, and a community of people which carries action on these lines to the very extremist limits has every right to remain a predominant race on this Earth forever, has claim to be the ruler of the world for all time. As soon as any or all of these qualities deteriorate in a nation, she begins to lose her right to remain and Fitter people may take her place automatically under the Law of Natural Selection.
Albert Speer, who was Hitler’s Minister of Armaments and War Production, wrote a contrite memoir of his World War II experiences while serving a 20-year prison sentence imposed by the Nuremberg tribunal. Speer’s narrative includes a discussion which captures Hitler’s effusive praise for Islam, “…a religion that believed in spreading the faith by the sword and subjugating all nations to that faith. Such a creed was perfectly suited to the Germanic temperament.” Hitler, according to Speer’s account, repeatedly expressed the conviction that, “The Mohammedan religion…would have been much more compatible to us than Christianity. Why did it have to be Christianity with its meekness and flabbiness?” These sentiments were also expressed by Hitler to Dr. Herman Neubacher, the first Nazi Mayor of Vienna, and subsequently, a special delegate of the Nazi regime in southeastern Europe. Neubacher wrote that Hitler had told him Islam was a “male religion,” and reiterated the belief that the Germans would have been far more successful conquerors had they adopted Islam in the Middle Ages. Additional confirmation of Hitler’s very favorable inclination towards Islam is provided by General Alexander Loehr, a Luftwaffe commander (executed in 1947 for the mass-murders of Yugoslav civilians). Loehr maintained a smiling Hitler had told him that Islam was such a desirable creed the Fuehrer longed for it to become the official SS religion.
Hitler appears to have viewed the uniquely Islamic institution of jihad as an appropriate model for waging genocidal, total war. During the mid to late 19th century, jihad total war campaigns — adapted to the conditions of modern warfare — were waged by the Ottoman Empire against its Bulgarian and Armenian Christian minorities. The Ottoman tactics included innumerable atrocities, mass slaughter, and extensive, murderous deportations. Official Ottoman jihad declarations during World War I assured that the genocidal aspects of Islamic doctrine were “updated” by the application of modern total war offensive doctrines, and directed at the Armenians, in particular. This jihad-inspired policy begot razzias (raids), massacres of villagers, massacres of Armenian conscripts in work battalions, and mass deportations — all representative of an overall total-war strategy implemented by the Ottoman state, and military high command.
And, as noted earlier, the disintegrating Ottoman Empire’s World War I jihad genocide against its Armenian minority, specifically, served as an “inspirational” precedent to Hitler.
Vahakn Dadrian — the foremost scholar of the Armenian genocide — observes that although Hitler’s motives in seeking to destroy the Jews were not identical with those of the Ottoman Turks’ in their attempts to eliminate the Armenians, “…the two victim nations share one common element in Hitler’s scheme of things: their extreme vulnerability.” Moreover, Hitler emphasized the urgent task, “…of protecting the German blood from contamination, not only of the Jewish but also of the Armenian blood.” Predictable impunity — the ease with which the Armenian genocide was committed and how the perpetrators escaped retributive justice — clearly impressed Hitler and his henchmen, considering a similar action against the Jews. Indeed, the German Jew, Richard Lictheim who as a young Zionist leader had negotiated with Ottoman leaders in Turkey during World War I, characterized the “…cold-bloodedly planned extermination of over one million Armenians…[as] akin to Hitler’s crusade of destruction against the Jews…” And as historian Abram Sachar noted, “…the genocide was cited approvingly twenty-five years later by the Fuehrer…who found the Armenian ‘solution’ an attractive precedent.”
Heinrich Himmler, head of the SS (Nazi Secret Service), and eventually all German police forces, was another champion of Islam’s singular bellicosity. Accordingly, Himmler foresaw that within the framework of the Waffen-SS, several Muslim divisions would be created to wage jihad “shoulder to shoulder” with Nazi and Axis power soldiers. Himmler was the guiding force behind the establishment of a Waffen-SS 13th (later dubbed Handzar) Division — comprised exclusively of Muslims from Bosnia and Herzegovina. He argued in support of the creation of this Muslim division that the global Islamic community (umma) was very sympathetic to Nazism, and that the targeted Balkan Muslims had a special consciousness of their Muslim Bosnian-Herzegovinian identity. Indeed, Himmler and his collaborators believed that these Balkan Muslims were ideally suited to forge a nexus between the Nazi Germanic “racial north,” and the Islamic east. SS General Gottlob Berger described how Himmler’s creation of the Handzar division was the apotheosis of this vision:
For the first time a connection is being established between Islam and National Socialism on an open, honest base, since it will be ruled from the North where blood and race are concerned, and from the East ideologically and spiritually.
As the ultimate fulfillment of his vision, Himmler also strove to re-create a contemporary version of the Ottoman Muslim devshirme levy, and form a modern janissary corps, not only in Bosnia-Herzegovina, but the Sanjak (regions in Serbia and Montenegro), most of Croatia, and the major part of Srem (which includes provinces in Serbia and Croatia between the Danube and Sava rivers). Historian Jennie Lebel describes this effort:
In order to supply the Reich on time with a “loyal population” for this planned SS border area [i.e., as outlined above in Bosnia-Herzegovina, Croatia, and Serbia], Himmler gave orders to collect children, male and female, who had been left without one or both parents and send them to Germany in order “to create a kind of Janissaries” and the “future soldiers and soldiers’ women of the old military border of the Reich.” The collection of the children was to be taken care of by the commanders of the Waffen-SS divisions. They had to report once monthly to Himmler personally on the number of children collected. This was stated in two letters by Himmler, one addressed to General Arthur Phleps on May 20, 1944, and the other to General Gottlob Berger on July 14 of the same year. Copies were sent to General Kammerhofer, SS representative for the NDH [Croatia], to General Erwin Rosener in Slovenia, General Hermann Behrends in Serbia and General Herman Foegellein, liason officer of the Waffen-SS with Hitler.
Hajj Amin el-Husseini — the pre-eminent Arab Muslim leader of the World War II era — was viewed by Hitler (and also the Waffen-SS) — as a “Muslim Pope.” For example, the Nazi regime promoted this former Mufti of Jerusalem in an illustrated biographical booklet (printed in Berlin in 1943) which declared him Muhammad’s direct descendant, an Arab national hero, and the “incarnation of all ideals and hopes of the Arab nation.”
Despite his role in fomenting the1920 pogroms against Palestinian Jews, el-Husseini was pardoned, and subsequently appointed Mufti of Jerusalem by the British High Commissioner, in May 1921, a title he retained, following the Ottoman practice, for the remainder of his life. Throughout his public career, the Mufti relied upon traditional Koranic anti-Jewish motifs to arouse the Arab street. For example, during the incitement which led to the 1929 Arab revolt in Palestine, he called for combating and slaughtering “the Jews”, not merely Zionists. In fact, most of the Jewish victims of the 1929 Arab revolt were Jews from the centuries old dhimmi communities (for eg., in Hebron), as opposed to recent settlers identified with the Zionist movement. With the ascent of Nazi Germany in the 1930s and 1940s, the Mufti and his coterie intensified their anti-Semitic activities to secure support from Hitler’s Germany (and later Bosnian Muslims, as well as the overall Arab Muslim world), for a jihad to annihilate the Jews of Palestine. Following his expulsion from Palestine by the British, the Mufti fomented a brutal anti-Jewish pogrom in Baghdad (1941), concurrent with his failed effort to install a pro-Nazi Iraqi government. Escaping to Europe after this unsuccessful coup attempt, the Mufti spent the remainder of World War II in Germany and Italy. From this sanctuary, he provided active support for the Germans by recruiting Bosnian Muslims, in addition to Muslim minorities from the Caucasus, for dedicated Nazi SS units. The Mufti’s objectives for these recruits, and Muslims in general, were made explicit during his multiple wartime radio broadcasts from Berlin, heard throughout the Arab world: an international campaign of genocide against the Jews. For example, during his March 1, 1944 broadcast he stated: “Kill the Jews wherever you find them. This pleases God, history, and religion.”
Hajj Amin made an especially important contribution to the German war effort in Yugoslovia where the Bosnian Muslim SS units he recruited (in particular the Handzar Division) brutally suppressed local Nazi resistance movements. The Mufti’s pamphlet entitled, “ Islam and the Jews “, as described earlier, was published by the Nazis in Croatian and German for distribution during the war to these Bosnian Muslim SS units. This incendiary document hinged upon antisemitic motifs from the Koran (for example, 5:82), and the hadith (including Muhammad’s alleged poisoning by a Khaybar Jewess), and concluded with the apocalyptic canonical hadith describing the Jews’ annihilation. And historian Jan Wanner has observed that,
His [the Mufti’s] appeals…addressed to the Bosnian Muslims were…close in many respects to the argumentation used by contemporary Islamic fundamentalists…the Mufti viewed only as a new interpretation of the traditional concept of the Islamic community (umma), sharing with Nazism common enemies.
Wanner further characterized The Mufti’s nefarious wartime campaign to prevent Jewish emigration from Europe to Palestine, and its horrific toll:
…the darkest aspect of the Mufti’s activities in the final stage of the war was undoubtedly his personal share in the extermination of Europe’s Jewish population. On May 17, 1943, he wrote a personal letter to Ribbentrop, asking him to prevent the transfer of 4500 Bulgarian Jews, 4000 of them children, to Palestine. In May and June of the same year, he sent a number of letters to the governments of Bulgaria, Italy, Rumania, and Hungary, with the request not to permit even individual Jewish emigration and to allow the transfer of Jews to Poland where, he claimed they would be “under active supervision”. The trials of Eichmann’s henchmen, including Dieter Wislicency who was executed in Bratislava, Czechoslovakia, confirmed that this was not an isolated act by the Mufti.
Invoking the personal support of such prominent Nazis as Himmler and Eichmann, the Mufti’s relentless hectoring of German, Rumanian, and Hungarian government officials caused the cancellation of an estimated 480,000 exit visas which had been granted to Jews (80,000 from Rumania, and 400,000 from Hungary). As a result, these hapless individuals were deported to Polish concentration camps. A United Nations Assembly document presented in 1947 which contained the Mufti’s June 28, 1943 letter to the Hungarian Foreign Minister requesting the deportation of Hungarian Jews to Poland, includes this stark, telling annotation: “As a Sequel to This Request 400,000 Jews Were Subsequently Killed.” Moreover, in the Mufti’s memoirs (Memoirs of the Grand Mufti, edited by Abd al-Karim al-Umar, Damascus, 1999) he describes what Himmler revealed to him during the summer of 1943 regarding the genocide of the Jews. Following pro forma tirades on “Jewish war guilt,” Himmler told the Mufti that “up to now we have liquidated [abadna] around three million of them.”
According to historian Howard M. Sachar, meetings the Mufti held with Hitler in 1941 and 1942 lead to an understanding whereby Hitler’s forces would invade Palestine with the goal being “..not the occupation of the Arab lands, but solely the destruction of Palestin(ian) Jewry…” And in April, 2006, the director of the Nazi research center in Ludwigsburg, Klaus-Michael Mallman, and Berlin historian Martin Cueppers, revealed that a murderous Einsatzgruppe Egypt, connected to Rommel’s Africa Korps, was stationed in Athens awaiting British expulsion from the Levant, prior to beginning their planned slaughter of the roughly 500,000 Jews in Palestine. This plan was only aborted after Rommel’s defeat by Montgomery at El Alamein, Egypt, in October/November 1942.
The Mufti remained unrelenting in his espousal of a virulent Judeophobic hatred as the focal tenet of his ideology in the aftermath of World War II, and the creation of the State of Israel. And the Mufti was also a committed supporter of global jihad movements, urging a “full struggle” against the Hindus of India (as well as the Jews of Israel) before delegates at the February 1951 World Muslim Congress: “We shall meet next with sword in hand on the soil of either Kashmir or Palestine.” Declassified intelligence documents from 1942, 1947, 1952, and 1954 confirm the Mufti’s own Caliphate desires in repeated references from contexts as diverse as Turkey, Egypt, Jerusalem, and Pakistan, and also include discussions of major Islamic Conferences dominated by the Mufti, which were attended by a broad spectrum of Muslim leaders literally representing the entire Islamic world (including Shia leaders from Iran), i, e., in Karachi from February 16-19, 1952, and Jordanian occupied Jerusalem, December 3-9, 1953. Finally during a 1962 “Great Muslim Congress” held in Mecca el-Husseini harshly criticized the “Arab nationalism” of Egyptian despot Gamal Abd el-Nasser. According to Jennie Lebel, the ex-Mufti openly rejected both Communism and Socialism, and “…urged all the [Muslim] faithful to unite against the bitterest enemies of the Arabs, those who disavow Islam and distort its call under the guise of nationalism Viewed in their totality these data do not support the current standard assessment of the Mufti as merely a “Palestinian Arab nationalist, rife with Jew hatred.”
During an interview conducted in the late 1930s (published in 1939), Karl Jung, the Swiss psychiatrist and founder of analytical psychiatry, was asked “…had he any views on what was likely to be the next step in religious development?” Jung replied, in reference to the Nazi fervor that had gripped Germany,
We do not know whether Hitler is going to found a new Islam. He is already on the way; he is like Muhammad. The emotion in Germany is Islamic; warlike and Islamic. They are all drunk with wild god. That can be the historic future.
Paul Berman also ignored in their entirety, writings produced for 100 years between the mid-19th through mid-20th centuries, by important scholars and intellectuals, in addition to Carl Jung — for example, the historians Jacob Burckhardt and Waldemar Gurian, Protestant theologian Karl Barth, and most notably, the renowned 20th century scholar of Islamic Law, G.H. Bousquet — referred to Islam as a despotic, or in 20th century parlance, totalitarian ideology.
Being imbued with fanaticism was the ultimate source of Muhammad’s great strength, and lead to his triumph as a despot, according to the 19th century Swiss historian Burckhardt:
Muhammad is personally very fanatical; that is his basic strength. His fanaticism is that of a radical simplifier and to that extent is quite genuine. It is of the toughest variety, namely doctrinaire passion, and his victory is one of the greatest victories of fanaticism and triviality. All idolatry, everything mythical, everything free in religion, all the multifarious ramifications of the hitherto existing faith, transport him into a real rage, and he hits upon a moment when large strata of his nation were highly receptive to an extreme simplification of the religious.
The Arabs, Burckhardt emphasizes, Muhammad’s henchmen, were not barbarians and had their own ingenuities, and spiritual traditions. Muhammad’s successful preaching among them capitalized upon an apparent longing for supra-tribal unification, “an extreme simplification.” Muhammad’s genius, “lies in divining this.” Utilizing portions of the most varied existing traditions, and taking advantage of the fact that “the peoples who were now attacked may also have been somewhat tired of their existing theology and mythology,” Muhammad
…with the aid of at least ten people, looks over the faiths of the Jews, Christians, and Parsis [Zoroastrians], and steals from them any scraps that he can use, shaping these elements according to his imagination. Thus everyone found in Muhammad’s sermons some echo of his accustomed faith. The very extraordinary thing is that with all this Muhammad achieved not merely lifetime success, the homage of Arabia, but founded a world religion that is viable to this day and has a tremendously high opinion of itself.
Burckhardt concludes that despite this achievement, Muhammad was not a great man, although he accepts the understandable inclination,
…to deduce great causes from great effects, thus, from Muhammad’s achievement, greatness of the originator. At the very least, one wants to concede in Muhammad’s case that he was no fraud, was serious about things, etc. However, it is possible to be in error sometime with this deduction regarding greatness and to mistake mere might for greatness. In this instance it is rather the low qualities of human nature that have received a powerful presentation. Islam is a triumph of triviality, and the great majority of mankind is trivial…But triviality likes to be tyrannical and is fond of imposing its yoke upon nobler spirits. Islam wanted to deprive distinguished old nations of their myths, the Persians of their Book of Kings, and for 1200 years it has actually prohibited sculpture and painting to tremendously large populations.
University of Notre Dame historian Waldemar Gurian, a refugee, who witnessed first hand the Communist and Fascist totalitarian movements in Europe, concluded (circa 1945) that Hitler, in a manner analogous to the 7th century precedent of Muhammad, had been the simplifier of German nationalism.
A fanatical simplifier who appeared as the unifier of various German traditions in the service of simple national aims and who was seen by many differing German groups — even by some people outside Germany — as the fulfiller of their wishes and sharer of their beliefs, with some distortions and exaggerations — such, as long as he had success, was Adolf Hitler.
Based upon the same clear understandings, and devoid of our era’s dulling, politically correct constraints, Karl Barth, like Carl Jung (cited earlier), offered this warning, also published in 1939:
[Karl Barth] Participation in this life, according to it the only worthy and blessed life, is what National Socialism, as a political experiment, promises to those who will of their own accord share in this experiment. And now it becomes understandable why, at the point where it meets with resistance, it can only crush and kill — with the might and right which belongs to Divinity! Islam of old as we know proceeded in this way. It is impossible to understand National Socialism unless we see it in fact as a new Islam [emphasis in original], its myth as a new Allah, and Hitler as this new Allah’s Prophet.
Investigative journalist John Roy Carlson’s 1948-1950 interviews of Arab Muslim religious and political leaders provide consummate independent validation of these Western assessments. Perhaps most revealing were the candid observations of Aboul Saud, whom Carlson described as a “pleasant English-speaking member of the Arab League Office.” Aboul Saud explained to Carlson that Islam was an authoritarian religio-political creed which encompassed all of a Muslim’s spiritual and temporal existence. He stated plainly,
You might describe Mohammedanism as a religious form of State Socialism…The Koran give the State the right to nationalize industry, distribute land, or expropriate the right to nationalize industry, distribute land, or expropriate property. It grants the ruler of the State unlimited powers, so long as he does not go against the Koran. The Koran is our personal as well as our political constitution.
And after interviewing Muslim Brotherhood founder Hassan al-Banna himself, who “preached the doctrine of the Koran in one hand and the sword in the other,” Carlson observed:
It became clear to me why the average Egyptian worshipped the use of force. Terror was synonymous with power! This was one reason why most Egyptians, regardless of class or calling had admired Nazi Germany. It helped explain the sensational growth of the Ikhwan el Muslimin [Muslim Brotherhood]
Thirty-fours years ago (1973/74) Bat Ye’or published a remarkably foresighted analysis of the Islamic antisemitism and resurgent jihadism in her native Egypt, being packaged for dissemination throughout the Muslim world. The primary, core Antisemitic and jihadist motifs were Islamic, derived from Islam’s foundational texts, on to which European, especially Nazi elements were grafted. Nazi academic and propagandist of extermination Johannes von Leers’ writings and personal career trajectory — as a favored contributor in Goebbels’ propaganda ministry, to his eventual adoption of Islam (as Omar Amin von Leers) 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 this convergence of jihad, Islamic antisemitism, and racist, Nazi antisemitism, as described by Bat Ye’or. Upon his arrival in Egypt in 1956, it was Hajj Amin el-Husseini who welcomed von Leers, stating, “We are grateful to you for having come here to resume the struggle against the powers of darkness incarnated by international Judaism.” The ex-Mufti oversaw von Leers’ formal conversion to Islam, and remained one of his confidants. And von Leers described the origins of the Muslim “forename,” Omar Amin, that he adopted as part of his conversion to Islam in a November, 1957 letter to American Nazi H. Keith Thompson,
I myself have embraced Islam and accepted the new forename Omar Amin, Omar according to the great Caliph Omar who was a grim enemy of the Jews, Amin in honor of my friend Hajj Amin el Husseini, the Grand Mufti.
Already in essays published during 1938 and 1942, the first dating back almost two decades before his conversion to Islam while in Egypt, von Leers produced analyses focused primarily on Muhammad’s interactions with the Jews of Medina. These essays reveal his pious reverence for Islam and its prophet, and a thorough understanding of the sacralized Islamic sources for this narrative, i.e., the Koran, hadith, and sira. which is entirely consistent with standard Muslim apologetics.
Von Leers’ 1942 essay, for example, concludes by simultaneously extolling the “model” of oppression the Jews experienced under Islamic suzerainty, and the nobility of Muhammad, Islam, and the contemporary Muslims of the World War II era, foreshadowing his own conversion to Islam just over a decade later. And even earlier, in a 1938 essay, von Leers further sympathized with, “the leading role of the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem in the Arabians’ battles against the Jewish invasion in Palestine.” Von Leers observes that to the pious Muslim, “…the Jew is an enemy, not simply an ‘unbeliever’ who might perhaps be converted or, despite the fact that he does not belong to Islam, might still be a person of some estimation. Rather, the Jew is the predestined opponent of the Muslim, one who desired to bring down the work of the Prophet.”
Until his death in 1965, von Leers remained unrepentant about the annihilationist policies towards the Jews he helped advance serving Hitler’s Reich. Indeed he was convinced of the righteousness of the Nazi war against the Jews, and as a pious Muslim convert, von Leers viewed the Middle East as the succeeding battleground to seal the fate of world Jewry. His public evolution over the course of three decades illustrates starkly the shared centrality to these totalitarianisms — both modern and ancient — of the Jews as “first and last enemy” motif. Finally, an October 1957 US intelligence report on von Leers’ writings and activities for Egypt and the Arab League confirmed his complete adoption of the triumphalist Muslim worldview, desirous of nothing less than the destruction of Judeo-Christian civilization by jihad:
He [Dr. Omar Amin von Leers] is becoming more and more a religious zealot, even to the extent of advocating an expansion of Islam in Europe in order to bring about stronger unity through a common religion. This expansion he believes can come not only from contact with the Arabs in the Near East and Africa but with Islamic elements in the USSR. The results he envisions as the formation of a political bloc against which neither East nor West could prevail.
Fifty years later ignorance, denial, and delusion have engendered the sorry state of public understanding of this most ominous conversion of hatreds, by all its potential victims, not only Jews. This lack of understanding is little advanced by the current spate of analyses — such as Paul Berman’s — which seek “Nazi roots” of the cataclysmic September 11, 2001 acts of jihad terrorism, and see Nazism as having “introduced” antisemitism to an otherwise “tolerant”, even philosemitic Islamic world beginning in the 1930s. Awkwardly forced, and ahistorical, these analyses realign the Nazi cart in front of the Islamic steed which has driven both jihad and Islamic antisemitism, since the 7th century advent of the Muslim creed, particularly during the last decade of Muhammad’s life.
Berman’s Islamic Apologetics Are Debunked by the Brutally Frank Insights of the Very Same Muslim “Apostate” Freethinkers Berman Nobly Supports
In a brilliant, dispassionate contemporary analysis, Ibn Warraq described 14 characteristics of “Ur Fascism” as enumerated by Umberto Eco, analyzing their potential relationship to the major determinants of Islamic governance and aspirations, through the present. He 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. Warraq’s assessment confirms what G.H. Bousquet concluded (in 1950) from his career studying the historical development and implementation of Islamic Law:
Islam first came before the world as a doubly totalitarian system. It claimed to impose itself on the whole world and it claimed also, by the divinely appointed Muhammadan law, by the principles of fiqh [jurisprudence], to regulate down to the smallest details the whole life of the Islamic community and of every individual believer… the study of Muhammadan Law (dry and forbidding though it may appear)… is of great importance to the world of today.
Hirsi Ali’s response to the standard non-sequitur apologetic about the putative existence of “different Islams,” is unequivocal:
No that is an erroneous idea. If one defines Islam as the religion founded by Muhammad and explained by the Koran and later by hadiths, there is only one Islam that dictates the moral framework.
She concludes that true reform of Islam, to render it compatible with modern human rights standards, must include criticism of both its core sacred text, and founder:
You cannot liberalize Islam without criticizing the Prophet and the Koran…You cannot redecorate a house without entering inside.
Hirsi Ali’s conceptions mirror the ideas outlined by Ibn Warraq in a thoughtful essay about reform (somewhat ironically) of Middle Eastern Muslim societies. She clearly shares the unapologetic views about the obstacles to such reform presented by Islam itself, which Warraq characterized as follows:
There are some (I believe, misguided) liberal Muslims who deny any such transformation is necessary, that Islam need not be marginalized for liberty to flourish. These liberals often argue that the real Islam is compatible with liberal democracy, that the real Islam is feminist, that the real Islam is egalitarian, that the real Islam tolerates other religions and beliefs, and so on. They then proceed to some truly creative re — interpretation of the embarrassing, intolerant and misogynist verses of the Koran. But intellectual honesty demands that we reject just such dishonest tinkering with the Koran’s text, which, while it may be open to some re — interpretation, is not infinitely elastic. The truth is there is no real difference between Islam and Islamic fundamentalism — at most there is a difference of degree, but not of kind. There are moderate Muslims, but Islam itself is not moderate. All the tenets of so — called Islamic fundamentalism are derived from the Koran, the Sunna, and the Hadith — the defining texts of Islam — and elaborated in intimate detail by the classical Muslim jurists from all four schools of Sunni Islamic jurisprudence, as well as by Shi’ite jurists. The only solution is to bring the questions of human rights out of the religious sphere and into the sphere of the civil state, in other words to separate religion from the state and promote a secular state where Islam is relegated to the personal.
And these pellucid, experience-based assessments by the same former Muslims Berman wishes to champion, explode his sham castle narrative of a “monstrous,” Nazified Islam, somehow transmogrified from Berman’s “Islam of generosity” — a purely fanciful, dangerously delusional notion.
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.
Contra Paul Berman, even if all vestiges of Nazi militarism and racist antisemitism were to disappear miraculously overnight from the Islamic world, the living legacy of jihad war against non-Muslim infidels, and anti-Jewish hatred and violence rooted in Islam’s sacred texts — Koran, hadith, and sira — would remain intact. The assessment and understanding of the uniquely Muslim institution of jihad, and Islamic antisemitism, begins with an unapologetic exposure of both the injunctions sanctioning jihad war, and the anti-Jewish motifs contained in these foundational texts of Islam. Yet while the West has engaged in self-critical mea culpa, acknowledging its own imperialistic past, shameful role in the slave trade, and antisemitic persecution — taking steps to make amends where possible — the Islamic nations remain in perpetual denial. Until Muslims acknowledge the ugly realities of jihad imperialism, and anti-Jewish persecution in their history, the past will continue to poison the present, and there will be no hope of combating resurgent jihadism, and Islam’s unreformed theological hatred of Jews in modern times, from Morocco to Indonesia, and within Muslim communities living in Western, and other non-Muslim societies across the globe.