No one disputes that the Nazis collaborated with several Islamist leaders. Amin al-Husseini, the mufti of Jerusalem, orated over Radio Berlin to the Middle East. The mufti's strongest supporter in the region was Hassan al-Banna, the founder of the Muslim Brotherhood. Al-Banna, too, spoke well of Hitler. But there is no consensus on how to interpret those old alliances and their legacy today.
Tariq Ramadan, the Islamic philosopher at Oxford, is Banna's grandson, and he argues that his grandfather was an upstanding democrat. In Mr. Ramadan's interpretation, everything the Islamists did in the past ought to be viewed sympathetically in, as Mr. Ramadan says, "context"—as logical expressions of anticolonial geopolitics, and nothing more. Reviews in Foreign Affairs, the National Interest and the New Yorker—the principal critics of my book—have just now spun variations on Mr. Ramadan's interpretation.
The piece in Foreign Affairs insists that, to the mufti of Jerusalem, Hitler was merely a "convenient ally," and it is "ludicrous" to imagine a deeper sort of alliance. Those in the National Interest and the New Yorker add that, in the New Yorker's phrase, "unlikely alliances" with Nazis were common among anticolonialists.
The articles point to some of Gandhi's comrades, and to a faction of the Irish Republican Army, and even to a lone dimwitted Zionist militant back in 1940, who believed for a moment that Hitler could be an ally against the British. But these various efforts to minimize the significance of the Nazi-Islamist alliance ignore a mountain of documentary evidence, some of it discovered last year in the State Department archives by historian Jeffrey Herf, revealing links that are genuinely profound.
"Kill the Jews wherever you find them. This pleases God, history and religion," said the mufti of Jerusalem on Radio Berlin in 1944. And the mufti's rhetoric goes on echoing today in major Islamist manifestos such as the Hamas charter and in the popular television oratory of Sheikh Yusuf al-Qaradawi, a revered scholar in the eyes of Tariq Ramadan: "Oh Allah, count their numbers, and kill them, down to the very last one." Foreign Affairs, the National Interest and the New Yorker have expended nearly 12,000 words in criticizing "Flight of the Intellectuals." And yet, though the book hinges on a series of such genocidal quotations, not one of those journals has found sufficient space to reproduce even a single phrase.
Why not? It is because a few Hitlerian quotations from Islamist leaders would make everything else in those magazine essays look ridiculous—the argument in the Foreign Affairs review, for instance, that Qaradawi ought to be viewed as a crowd-pleasing champion of "centrism," and Hamas merits praise as a "moderate" movement and a "firewall against radicalization."
Sunday, July 11, 2010
From Saturday's Wall Street Journal: