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Cairo to Damascus

by John Roy Carl­son
1951, Knopf, 474 pages
Down­load Pt. 1 | Down­load Pt. 2

Best known for Under Cover [1943], a chron­i­cle about his years-long infil­tra­tion of the fas­cist Fifth Col­umn move­ment in the United States, John Roy Carl­son pub­lished Cairo to Dam­as­cus in 1951. A work that is at least impor­tant today as it was when pub­lished, Cairo to Dam­as­cus recorded the Nazi recrude­s­cence in the Mid­dle East after the end of World War II. With alarm, Carl­son wrote that, if the sit­u­a­tion were not cor­rected, the Third Reich alumni in the “Holy Land” would pre­cip­i­tate a cat­a­stro­phe of epic pro­por­tions. In the post-911 era, his words are haunting.

In the fourth chap­ter of the book, Carl­son writes of the Mus­lim Broth­er­hood, the Islamic fas­cist orga­ni­za­tion that is the par­ent orga­ni­za­tion of Al Qaeda, Hamas and Pales­tin­ian Islamic Jihad. On pages 91 and 92 of the orig­i­nal text, Carl­son inter­viewed Has­san al-Banna, the founder of the Mus­lim Broth­er­hood, find­ing his total­i­tar­ian inter­pre­ta­tion of Islam to be iden­ti­cal with the way West­ern total­i­tar­i­ans approached Chris­tian­ity. Enun­ci­at­ing the Mus­lim Brotherhood’s goal of estab­lish­ing a world­wide total­i­tar­ian Islamic theoc­racy, al-Banna antic­i­pates the doc­trine expressed in the Broth­er­hood doc­u­ment The Project, dis­cussed in FTR#537. “ . . . I asked his views on estab­lish­ing the Caliphate, the com­plete merger of Church and State—the Moslem equiv­a­lent of reli­gious total­i­tar­i­an­ism, as in Spain. ‘We want an Ara­bian United States with a Caliphate at its head and every Arab state sub­scrib­ing whole­heart­edly to the laws of the Koran. . . . The laws of the Koran are suit­able for all men at all times to the end of the world.’ . . . I could not help mak­ing a men­tal note that the word ‘Chris­t­ian’ has been sim­i­larly used and with sim­i­lar fanati­cism among West­ern expo­nents of author­i­tar­i­an­ism. . . .”
(Cairo to Dam­as­cus, p. 92.)

In addi­tion to relat­ing his per­sonal encoun­ters with Nazi com­bat vet­er­ans of World War II, Carl­son writes exten­sively of the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem—SS offi­cer, Axis spy, recruiter of numer­ous com­bat units for the Third Reich, and the first leader of the Pales­tin­ian national move­ment. Carl­son related the Grand Mufti’s cre­ation of the World Mus­lim Con­gress. The WMC even­tu­ally became the Islamic branch of the fas­cist World Anti-Communist League and a pri­mary ele­ment in the U.S.-backed Afghan war against the Soviet Union. (That con­flict ulti­mately spawned Al Qaeda and Osama bin Laden as a mil­i­tary leader.) “In Feb­ru­ary 1951 he sud­denly reap­peared in Karachi, Pak­istan to meet old friends who had sup­ported his cause in Iraq and to pre­side over a twelve-day World Moslem Con­gress. In a typ­i­cal inflam­ma­tory address, he called for a ‘full strug­gle’ by the Moslems ‘to meet the aggressor’—meaning, in this instance, the non-Moslem Hin­dus of India. He assured the del­e­gates: ‘We shall meet next with sword in hand on the soil of either Kash­mir or Pales­tine.’” (Ibid.; p. 423.) (For more about the Grand Mufti, see—among other programs—FTR#414, as well as FTR#456.

Carlson’s assess­ment of the Arab-Israeli con­flict is as rel­e­vant today as when the book was pub­lished: “ . . . I pray that these ancient Semitic peo­ples will rec­on­cile their dif­fer­ences, that Pales­tine refugees who, in the main, left their homes because Arab lead­ers urged them to do so—expecting a short war and a quick victory—will be reset­tled. The only alter­na­tive to peace is dis­as­ter for Arab, Jew, and Chris­t­ian, for none may hope to pros­per alone. . . .” (Ibid.; p. viii.)

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