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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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