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FTR #518 Islamism in Europe


‘If you want to under­stand the struc­ture of polit­i­cal Islam, you have to look at what hap­pened in Munich . . . Munich is the ori­gin of a net­work that now reach­es around the world.’ This quote from Ger­man his­to­ri­an Ste­fan Mein­ing sums up the focal point of this broadcast—the Islam­ic Cen­ter of Munich, a mosque which orig­i­nat­ed with for­mer Mus­lim Nazi sol­diers who had set­tled in that city after World War II. Although the Wall Street Jour­nal arti­cle upon which the pro­gram is based fails to include a num­ber of impor­tant details, includ­ing the Mus­lim Brotherhood’s fas­cist his­to­ry and affil­i­a­tions, the sto­ry of the Munich mosque chron­i­cles the com­pe­ti­tion among the CIA, British and Ger­man intel­li­gence for con­trol of the Mus­lim ex-Nazi sol­diers as tools in the Cold War against the Sovi­et Union. In so doing, the arti­cle sets forth the Nazi and fas­cist ori­gins of the con­tem­po­rary Islamist move­ment. Along with an arti­cle pre­sent­ed in FTR#519, the broad­cast com­pris­es a good overview of the devel­op­ment of the force that spawned Al Qae­da, Hamas and Pales­tin­ian Islam­ic Jihad. As not­ed in the arti­cle, the ulti­mate vic­tor in the sub­ter­ranean polit­i­cal strug­gles around the Munich mosque dur­ing the Cold War was the Mus­lim Broth­er­hood.

Pro­gram High­lights Include: The career of Nazi Ost­min­is­teri­um offi­cial Ger­hard von Mende: von Mende’s post­war work with his Mus­lim ex-Nazi sol­diers on behalf of the Ger­man gov­ern­ment; von Mende’s com­pe­ti­tion with the CIA for con­trol of his Nazi Mus­lim vet­er­ans; the CIA’s stew­ard­ship of a for­mer Nazi Mus­lim named Gua­caoglu; von Mende’s stew­ard­ship of a for­mer Nazi imam named Naman­gani; Namangani’s employ­ment by the Ger­man gov­ern­ment as an offi­cial imam (despite his pre­vi­ous ser­vice in a Waf­fen SS divi­sion); the CIA’s rela­tion­ship with Mus­lim Broth­er­hood offi­cial Said Ramadan; the even­tu­al suc­ces­sion of Bank al Taqwa offi­cial Ali Galeb Him­mat to a dom­i­nant posi­tion with­in the Munich Islam­ic com­mu­ni­ty.

1. Begin­ning the polit­i­cal his­to­ry of the Munich mosque, the pro­gram high­lights the role of ex-Nazi Mus­lim sol­diers in Cold War pol­i­tics that, in turn, nur­tured con­tem­po­rary Islamism. As will be seen, U.S., Ger­man and British intel­li­gence vied with one anoth­er for con­trol of these ele­ments, as well as with the asso­ci­at­ed Mus­lim Broth­er­hood. Note that the arti­cle that com­pris­es the entire broad­cast does not men­tion the asso­ci­a­tion of the Mus­lim Broth­er­hood with the Third Reich. The Nazi affil­i­a­tions of Youssef Nada aren’t mentioned—neither are the Grand Mufti or Fran­cois Genoud. This is an invalu­able arti­cle, but does leave out some impor­tant infor­ma­tion.

“ . . . The mosque’s his­to­ry, how­ev­er, tells a more tumul­tuous sto­ry. Buried in gov­ern­ment and pri­vate archives are hun­dreds of doc­u­ments that trace the bat­tle to con­trol the Islam­ic Cen­ter of Munich. Nev­er before made pub­lic, the mate­r­i­al shows how rad­i­cal Islam estab­lished one of its first and most impor­tant beach­heads in the West when a group of ex-Nazi sol­diers decid­ed to build a mosque.”

(“The Beach­head: How a Mosque for Ex-Nazis Became Cen­ter of Rad­i­cal Islam; Doc­u­ments Reveal Tri­umph by Mus­lim Broth­er­hood in Post­war Munich; A CIA Plan to Fight Sovi­ets” by Ian John­son; Wall Street Jour­nal; 7/12/2005; p. A1.)

2. “The sol­diers’ pres­ence in Munich was part of a near­ly for­got­ten sub­plot to World War II: the deci­sion by tens of thou­sands of Mus­lims in the Sovi­et Red Army to switch sides and fight for Hitler. After the war, thou­sands sought refuge in West Ger­many, build­ing one of the largest Mus­lim com­mu­ni­ties in 1950’s Europe. When the Cold War heat­ed up, they were a cov­et­ed prize for their lan­guage skills and con­tacts back in the Sovi­et Union. For more than a decade, U.S. West Ger­man, Sovi­et and British intel­li­gence agen­cies vied for con­trol of them in the new bat­tle of democ­ra­cy ver­sus com­mu­nism.” (Idem.)

3. The ele­ment that emerged on top in the strug­gle was the Mus­lim Broth­er­hood. (For more about the Mus­lim Broth­er­hood, see—among oth­er pro­grams—FTR#’s 343, 455, 456, 473, 514. For infor­ma­tion about the Bush administration’s links to the Mus­lim Broth­er­hood, see—among oth­er pro­grams—FTR#’s 356, 357, 454, 462, 464, 467, 514, 515.) Again, note that the arti­cle fails to men­tion the Mus­lim Brotherhood’s fas­cist nature, alliances and his­to­ry. The arti­cle notes how anti-Com­mu­nism nur­tured Islamism and allowed it to become ascen­dent.

“Yet the vic­tor was­n’t any of these Cold War com­bat­ants. Instead, it was a move­ment with an equal­ly pow­er­ful ide­ol­o­gy: the Mus­lim Broth­er­hood. Found­ed in 1920s Egypt as a social-reform move­ment, the Broth­er­hood became the foun­tain­head of polit­i­cal Islam, which calls for the Mus­lim reli­gion to dom­i­nate all aspects of life. A pow­er­ful force for polit­i­cal change through­out the Mus­lim world, the Broth­er­hood also inspired some of the dead­liest ter­ror­ist move­ments of the past quar­ter cen­tu­ry, includ­ing Hamas and al Qae­da. The sto­ry of how the Broth­er­hood export­ed its creed to the heart of Europe high­lights a recur­ring error by West­ern democ­ra­cies. For decades, coun­tries have tried to cut deals with polit­i­cal Islam — back­ing it in order to defeat anoth­er ene­my, espe­cial­ly com­mu­nism. Most famous­ly, the U.S. and its allies built up mujahideen holy war­riors in 1980s Afghanistan to fight the Sovi­et Union — paving the way for the rise of Osama bin Laden, who quick­ly turned on his U.S. allies in the 1990s.”


4. “Munich was a momen­tous ear­ly exam­ple of this dubi­ous strat­e­gy. Doc­u­ments and inter­views show how the Mus­lim Broth­er­hood formed a work­ing arrange­ment with U.S. intel­li­gence orga­ni­za­tions, out­ma­neu­ver­ing Ger­man agen­cies for con­trol of the for­mer Nazi sol­diers and their mosque. But the U.S. lost its hold on the move­ment, and in short order con­ser­v­a­tive, arch-Catholic Bavaria had become host to a cen­ter of rad­i­cal Islam. ‘If you want to under­stand the struc­ture of polit­i­cal Islam, you have to look at what hap­pened in Munich,’ says Ste­fan Mein­ing, a Munich-based his­to­ri­an who is study­ing the Islam­ic cen­ter. ‘Munich is the ori­gin of a net­work that now reach­es around the world.’” (Idem.)

5. The pro­gram gives an overview of the Mus­lim Broth­er­hood:

“Polit­i­cal and social groups affil­i­at­ed with the Mus­lim Broth­er­hood now dom­i­nate orga­nized Islam­ic life across a broad swath of West­ern Europe. These con­nec­tions are fre­quent­ly lit­tle known, even by the intel­li­gence ser­vices and police agen­cies of these coun­tries. While these groups renounce ter­ror­ism and offi­cial­ly advo­cate assim­i­la­tion, the upshot of their mes­sage is that Europe’s Mus­lims — now rep­re­sent­ing between 5% and 10% of the con­ti­nen­t’s pop­u­la­tion — need to be walled off from West­ern cul­ture. This in turn has helped cre­ate fer­tile ground for vio­lent ideas. Islam­ic ter­ror­ists have increas­ing­ly used Europe as a launch­ing pad for their attacks, from the Sept. 11 assault on the U.S. to last year’s bomb­ing of trains in Madrid.”

(Ibid.; pp. A1-A12.)

6. The Drama­tis Per­son­ae:

“These cur­rent ten­sions are embed­ded in the events of half a cen­tu­ry ago. Post­war Munich was a ruined city packed with Mus­lim emi­gres flee­ing per­se­cu­tion. While the West tried to observe and con­trol them as valu­able pawns in the Cold War, they encoun­tered for­mi­da­ble rivals seek­ing their own pow­er bases in Europe’s bur­geon­ing Mus­lim world. Over the next few decades, four men would try suc­ces­sive­ly to con­trol the Munich mosque: a bril­liant pro­fes­sor of Tur­kic stud­ies, an imam in Hitler’s SS, a charis­mat­ic Mus­lim writer with a world-wide fol­low­ing and a hard-nosed Mus­lim financier now under inves­ti­ga­tion for back­ing ter­ror­ism. Most favored some sort of accom­mo­da­tion with the West. But the vic­tor had a bold­er vision: a glob­al Islam opposed to the ideals of sec­u­lar democ­ra­cy.”

(Ibid.; p. A12.)

7. One of the major play­ers in the devel­op­ment of the Munich Islam­ic Cen­ter as an Islamist nexus is Ger­hard von Mende—a for­mer Third Reich polit­i­cal ana­lyst and oper­a­tive. A spe­cial­ist in the Mus­lim eth­nic nation­al­i­ties of the for­mer Sovi­et Union, von Mende trans­ferred his exper­tise from the Third Reich to post­war Ger­man intel­li­gence. In the lat­ter regard, he found him­self in com­pe­ti­tion with the CIA, which wooed some of his Tur­kic ex-Nazis and also worked with the Mus­lim Broth­er­hood ele­ments in the Munich mosque.

“Ger­hard von Mende’s inter­est in Mus­lims orig­i­nat­ed in 1919, when his father was mur­dered. The fam­i­ly had lived in Riga, part of a once- large Ger­man minor­i­ty in Latvia. When the tiny land was invad­ed by the Red Army at the end of World War I, mem­bers of the bour­geoisie were round­ed up and sent on a forced march. Mr. von Mende’s father, a banker, was pulled out of the line and shot dead. That awak­ened in the 14-year-old a loathing of things Russ­ian. After flee­ing with his moth­er and six sib­lings to Ger­many, he chose to study oth­er peo­ple who were oppressed by Russ­ian rule — the Mus­lims of Cen­tral Asia. A bliz­zard of papers and books brought him aca­d­e­m­ic promi­nence. Lin­guis­ti­cal­ly gift­ed, he spoke flu­ent Russ­ian, Lat­vian and French, as well as pass­able Turk­ish and Ara­bic. When he mar­ried a Nor­we­gian, he picked up her native tongue as well.”


8. “The Nazi inva­sion of the Sovi­et Union in 1941 put a pre­mi­um on peo­ple like Mr. von Mende, who under­stood some­thing about the lands that Ger­many’s blitzkrieg was over­run­ning. He kept his job at Berlin Uni­ver­si­ty but was sec­ond­ed to the new Impe­r­i­al Min­istry for Occu­pied East­ern Ter­ri­to­ries — or Ost­min­is­teri­um — to head a depart­ment over­see­ing the Cau­ca­sus. Ger­many’s ini­tial vic­to­ries left it with stag­ger­ing num­bers of Sovi­et pris­on­ers– five mil­lion in all. Due in part to the efforts of Mr. von Mende and the Ost­min­is­teri­um, Hitler agreed to free pris­on­ers who would take up arms against the Sovi­ets. The Nazis set up ‘Ostle­gio­nen’ — East­ern Legions — made up pri­mar­i­ly of non-Russ­ian minori­ties eager to pay Moscow back for decades of oppres­sion. Up to a mil­lion sol­diers took up Hitler’s offer.” (Idem.)

9. Von Mendes’s posi­tion with­in the Nazi Ost­min­is­teri­um was an impor­tant one.

“As the war pro­gressed, Mr. von Mende became one of the chief archi­tects of the Nazi pol­i­cy toward Sovi­et minori­ties. He was dubbed their ‘lord-pro­tec­tor,’ estab­lish­ing nation­al com­mit­tees of Tatars, Turks, Geor­gians, Azer­bai­ja­nis and Arme­ni­ans. Des­per­ate for sol­diers, the Nazis viewed these com­mit­tees as lit­tle more than a way to keep their turn­coat allies in the war. But for the peo­ple involved, they were like gov­ern­ments-in-exile, a taste of inde­pen­dence for which they were grate­ful to Mr. von Mende. Col­leagues from this era describe Mr. von Mende as a well-dressed, regal man with a wry smile, who used his per­son­al charm to win over the exiles — espe­cial­ly his favorites, the Tur­kic Mus­lims of Cen­tral Asia. He opened his home in Berlin to them for long din­ners with the con­ver­sa­tion flow­ing in Russ­ian, Turk­ish and Ger­man. In the last months of the war, he cement­ed their loy­al­ty through an act of bureau­crat­ic genius: With Ger­many’s infra­struc­ture bombed to a pulp, he man­aged to get thou­sands of ‘his’ Turks trans­ferred to the west­ern front — Greece, Italy, Den­mark and Bel­gium — fig­ur­ing it would be bet­ter if they end­ed up in British or Amer­i­can pris­on­er-of-war camps than Sovi­et. Those who fell into Sovi­et hands were shot as trai­tors.”


10. “By the late 1940s, hun­dreds of Mus­lim ex-sol­diers were strand­ed in the U.S. zone of occu­pa­tion in Munich. Mr. von Mende, whose Nazi past left him with lim­it­ed job prospects, decid­ed to devote him­self to look­ing out for them. That deci­sion would prove ben­e­fi­cial — both for the Mus­lims and for Mr. von Mende. It was the begin­ning of the Cold War and West­ern intel­li­gence agen­cies were des­per­ate for any­one who could pro­vide a glimpse behind the Iron Cur­tain. They need­ed peo­ple to ana­lyze doc­u­ments, broad­cast anti-Sovi­et pro­pa­gan­da and recruit spies.” (Idem.)

11. Von Mende’s first post­war employ­er was British intel­li­gence. After that, his pri­ma­ry employ­ment was with the Ger­man gov­ern­ment. In that capac­i­ty, he inevitably worked very close­ly with the Rein­hard Gehlen out­fit. Von Mende’s Third Reich endeav­ors would inevitably have put him in close con­tact with the Gehlen milieu as well.

“In Octo­ber 1945, Mr. von Mende wrote a let­ter to a ‘Major Mor­ri­son’ in the British Army, accord­ing to a let­ter in his pri­vate papers that his fam­i­ly made avail­able. He laid out the Ost­min­is­teri­um’s unique source of knowl­edge about the Sovi­et peo­ples. He explained who worked for it and in which POW or Dis­placed Per­sons camp they were being held. It was the begin­ning of his intel­li­gence career. Mr. von Mende set­tled in the British-occu­pied sec­tor of Ger­many, in the com­mer­cial cen­ter of Dus­sel­dorf. Although he was no longer an aca­d­e­m­ic, he called his office the ‘East­ern Euro­pean Research Ser­vice.’ His staff was made up of ex-Ost­min­is­teri­um employ­ees — basi­cal­ly a re-cre­ation of the Nazi appa­ra­tus that over­saw the Mus­lims dur­ing the war. Fund­ing came from British occu­pa­tion forces ini­tial­ly, then a vari­ety of West Ger­man agen­cies, includ­ing the nation­al domes­tic intel­li­gence agency and the Ger­man for­eign min­istry, accord­ing to for­eign-min­istry doc­u­ments and Mr. von Mende’s pri­vate cor­re­spon­dence.”


12. “Mr. von Mende spent enor­mous amounts of time help­ing the Mus­lims who used to work for him in the Ost­min­is­teri­um. He wrung mon­ey out of the West Ger­man bureau­cra­cy for them to be fed, clothed and housed — con­di­tions were appalling and even a decade after the war’s end many were still liv­ing in bar­racks. But at heart, his task was sim­ple: keep tabs on the emi­gres and pre­vent them from falling into anoth­er coun­try’s con­trol. The main threat was the Sovi­et Union, which want­ed to stop the emi­gres from mak­ing anti-com­mu­nist pro­pa­gan­da. Some emi­gre lead­ers in West Ger­many were mur­dered. Many car­ried weapons in defense against KGB assas­sins.” (Idem.)

13. The CIA began to com­pete with von Mende’s Ger­man bene­fac­tors for the ser­vices of the ex-Nazi Mus­lim emi­gres.

“By 1956, a rival emerged to threat­en Mr. von Mende’s con­trol over the Mus­lim ex-sol­diers of Munich: the Amer­i­can Com­mit­tee for Lib­er­a­tion from Bol­she­vism, wide­ly known as Amcom­lib. Set up as a U.S. non­govern­men­tal orga­ni­za­tion to run Radio Free Europe and Radio Lib­er­ty, Amcom­lib was in fact a thin­ly dis­guised front for the Cen­tral Intel­li­gence Agency. CIA fund­ing last­ed until 1971 when Con­gress cut Amcom­lib’s ties to the intel­li­gence agency. Dur­ing the 1950s, the head of Amcom­lib’s polit­i­cal orga­ni­za­tion was Isaac Patch, who is now 95 and liv­ing in retire­ment in New Hamp­shire. Reached by tele­phone, Mr. Patch defend­ed Amcom­lib’s strat­e­gy of using Mus­lims to fight the Sovi­ets. ‘Islam was an impor­tant fac­tor, no ques­tion about it,’ Mr. Patch said. ‘They were strong believ­ers and strong anti-com­mu­nists.’”


14. One of the CIA’s ex-Nazi Mus­lims was Ibrahim Gacaoglu.

“Amcom­lib forged ties with Ibrahim Gacaoglu, a for­mer Nazi sol­dier from the Cau­ca­sus who, like Mr. von Mende, was look­ing after Mus­lim sol­diers strand­ed in Ger­many. Mr. Gacaoglu con­trolled food pack­ages from the U.S., which he doled out to his fol­low­ers, accord­ing to his orga­ni­za­tion’s doc­u­ments. Mr. Gacaoglu also did pro­pa­gan­da work for Radio Free Europe. In 1957, for exam­ple, he held a news con­fer­ence with anoth­er for­mer Ger­man polit­i­cal offi­cer, Garip Sul­tan, who head­ed Radio Lib­er­ty’s Tatar ser­vice, accord­ing to doc­u­ments and Mr. Sul­tan. The two decried Stal­in’s abus­es in Chech­nya. Mr. Sul­tan, now 81 years old, said in an inter­view that he wrote Mr. Gacaoglu’s speech­es and a pam­phlet for him on the sit­u­a­tion of Mus­lims.”


15. “For Mr. von Mende and his col­leagues, Mr. Gacaoglu’s CIA con­nec­tions were a prob­lem. West Ger­many and the U.S. were on the same side of the Cold War, but Mr. von Mende did­n’t appre­ci­ate for­eign agen­cies try­ing to influ­ence Ger­man res­i­dents. As one infor­mant had put it in a report to his boss: ‘Ger­many is a gate that no one con­trols because there does­n’t seem to be a gate­keep­er. Every­one comes and does what he pleas­es.’ Mr. von Mende decid­ed that Ger­many’s Mus­lims need­ed a leader he could trust. He turned to a friend from the war: Nurredin Nakib­h­od­scha Naman­gani.” (Idem.)

16. Von Mende select­ed anoth­er Third Reich alum­nus, Nurredin Nakob­h­od­scha Namangani—a for­rmer imam for a Waf­fen SS Divi­sion.

“Mr. Naman­gani had come from a long line of imams in his native land, mod­ern-day Uzbek­istan. But his reli­gious ser­vice had most­ly been in an unholy orga­ni­za­tion: Hitler’s infa­mous SS. Accord­ing to an auto­bi­o­graph­i­cal sketch he gave Ger­man author­i­ties, he had been arrest­ed by Stal­in’s secu­ri­ty forces in 1941 and soon after lib­er­at­ed by the invad­ing Ger­man army. He served as imam in var­i­ous capac­i­ties, end­ing as imam for an SS divi­sion. He won some of Ger­many’s high­est com­men­da­tions, includ­ing the Iron Cross. Mr. Naman­gani arrived in Munich in 1956 to an uproar. Oppo­nents such as Mr. Gacaoglu charged Mr. Naman­gani with hav­ing par­tic­i­pat­ed in wartime atroc­i­ties. Mr. Naman­gani’s unit report­ed­ly helped put down the 1944 War­saw upris­ing of Pol­ish par­ti­sans against the Nazis, but any per­son­al role in atroc­i­ties is not evi­dent in Ger­man war records.”


17. Ex-SS cler­ic Naman­gani became the chief imam of Germany’s Mus­lims, sub­si­dized by the Ger­man gov­ern­ment. Naman­gani launched the project to build the mosque.

“Mr. von Mende beat back the attacks, per­suad­ing the fed­er­al gov­ern­ment in Bonn to accept Mr. Naman­gani as the ‘Haup­ti­mam’ or ‘chief imam’ of Ger­many’s Mus­lims, on the West Ger­man pay­roll. In late 1958, Mr. Naman­gani came up with a plan to ral­ly the ex- Mus­lim sol­diers behind him: a ‘Mosque Con­struc­tion Com­mis­sion.’ At the time, Ger­many had only a cou­ple of mosques. Munich’s mosque would be dif­fer­ent: big­ger and ded­i­cat­ed not to traders and vis­i­tors but to Ger­many’s first per­ma­nent Mus­lim pop­u­la­tion of any note.”


18. “‘For 13 years, Mus­lims haven’t had a fixed place for their ser­vices and have had to hold them in var­i­ous places,’ Mr. Naman­gani told the assem­bled 50 or so Mus­lims, includ­ing some Mus­lim stu­dents from the Mid­dle East. Once, Mus­lims had been forced to hold ser­vices even in a brew­ery, oth­er times in a muse­um, accord­ing to min­utes of the mosque com­mis­sion. Now, he told the group, Munich would be a cen­ter for Mus­lims and the Bavar­i­an state gov­ern­ment would cer­tain­ly help out, accord­ing to the min­utes.” (Idem.)

19. One of the peo­ple present at the inau­gu­ra­tion of the mosque-build­ing project was Mus­lim Broth­er­hood chief Said Ramadan.

“It was a big event, so big in fact that some­one spe­cial was on hand: Said Ramadan, the Gene­va-based sec­re­tary gen­er­al of the World Islam­ic Con­gress, a group that want­ed to unite Mus­lims around the world. The rest of those assem­bled donat­ed 125 marks in total (about $275 in today’s mon­ey) for the mosque’s con­struc­tion. Mr. Ramadan him­self gave 1,000 marks. Mr. von Mende quick­ly put out feel­ers for infor­ma­tion on the well- heeled vis­i­tor. Soon, his index of peo­ple to watch con­tained a new entry: ‘Said Ramadan, Gene­va. Cir­ca 36 years old, 3 chil­dren. Since 1956 dri­ves an expen­sive Cadil­lac, gift of the Sau­di Ara­bi­an gov­ern­ment. R.S. [sic] is sup­posed to be a mem­ber of the Mus­lim Broth­er­hood.’”


20. “Said Ramadan’s arrival in Europe was the result of a clash of ideas that con­tin­ues to tear at Islam­ic soci­eties. At heart, the prob­lem is how to rec­on­cile Islam with the mod­ern nation-state. Like many reli­gions, Islam is all-embrac­ing, pre­scrib­ing behav­ior in many spheres, pol­i­tics includ­ed. But when tak­en lit­er­al­ly, these require­ments can clash with today’s lib­er­al democ­ra­cies, which pro­mote indi­vid­ual free­dom. In 1920s Egypt, a young school­teacher named Hasan al-Ban­na came down firm­ly on the side of ortho­doxy. Trou­bled by what he saw as the immoral­i­ty of a rapid­ly mod­ern­iz­ing Egypt, he set up an orga­ni­za­tion called the Mus­lim Broth­er­hood. His plan was to re-Islam­i­cize soci­ety by teach­ing the fun­da­men­tals of Islam in the every­day lan­guage of the cof­fee shop, not the clas­si­cal Ara­bic of mosques. He set up wel­fare orga­ni­za­tions and was famous for his com­mit­ment to social jus­tice.” (Idem.)

21. “But this col­lid­ed with oth­er visions of Egypt, espe­cial­ly those import­ed from the West, such as social­ism and fas­cism. Heav­i­ly involved in the tur­bu­lent pol­i­tics of post­war Egypt, Mr. Ban­na was assas­si­nat­ed in 1949. A few years lat­er, a mil­i­tary coup brought in a social­ist gov­ern­ment that banned the group in 1954. Many mem­bers were thrown in jail and some were exe­cut­ed. Mr. Ramadan was the most promi­nent mem­ber to flee abroad. He was Mr. Ban­na’s son- in-law and was famous for hav­ing helped orga­nize Jerusalem’s defense against the new state of Israel in 1948. Few coun­tries in the region want­ed to shield Mr. Ramadan; Egypt was a region­al pow­er­house and its neigh­bors were wary of antag­o­niz­ing it. After stops in Syr­ia, Lebanon, Jor­dan and Pak­istan, he arrived in Gene­va in the sum­mer of 1958 on a Jor­dan­ian diplo­mat­ic pass, accred­it­ed to the U.N. and also neigh­bor­ing West Ger­many.” (Idem.)

22. “While in Ger­many, he set out his ideas in a doc­tor­al the­sis called ‘Islam­ic Law: Its Scope and Equi­ty.’ It was pub­lished as a book and became a clas­sic of mod­ern Islamist think­ing. ‘He was decent and intel­li­gent,’ says his doc­tor­al advis­er at Cologne Uni­ver­si­ty, Ger­hard Kegel, now 93, ‘if a lit­tle fanat­i­cal.’ Not fanat­i­cal in the sense of advo­cat­ing vio­lence, Mr. Kegel says, but in his view of a world in which Islam guides all laws and there is no dis­tinc­tion between reli­gion and state. Mr. Ramadan also pub­lished a mag­a­zine, Al- Mus­limoon, which sur­veyed events in the Mus­lim world and crit­i­cized sec­u­lar­ism.” (Idem.)

23. More about the alliance between Ramadan, the Broth­er­hood and the CIA. Note that even in the fifties, the Broth­er­hood had pro­found dif­fer­ences with the West. Those dif­fer­ences were exac­er­bat­ed after the col­lapse of the Sovi­et Union.

“Mr. Ramadan, like oth­ers in the Mus­lim Broth­er­hood, strong­ly opposed com­mu­nism for reject­ing reli­gion. Dur­ing the Cold War, that made him a nat­ur­al ally of the U.S. But Mr. Ramadan also opposed the U.S. and oth­er West­ern coun­tries for their inter­fer­ence in Mideast­ern affairs. Then as now, that put peo­ple like Mr. Ramadan in a tough posi­tion: They need­ed to coop­er­ate with the West but did­n’t want to be West­ern col­lab­o­ra­tors. His­tor­i­cal evi­dence sug­gests that Mr. Ramadan worked with the CIA. At the time, Amer­i­ca was locked in a pow­er strug­gle with the Sovi­et Union, which was sup­port­ing Egyp­t’s Gamal Abdel Nass­er. As Nasser’s ene­my, the Broth­er­hood seemed like a good ally for the U.S.”


24. “A doc­u­ment from the Ger­man for­eign intel­li­gence ser­vice, known by its ini­tials BND, says the U.S. had helped per­suade Jor­dan to issue Mr. Ramadan a pass­port and that ‘his expen­di­tures are financed by the Amer­i­can side.’ Swiss diplo­mats con­curred that the U.S. and Mr. Ramadan were close. Accord­ing to a 1967 diplo­mat­ic report in the Swiss fed­er­al archives: ‘Said Ramadan is, among oth­ers, an infor­ma­tion agent of the British and Amer­i­cans.’ When the Swiss news­pa­per Le Temps report­ed the con­tents of the diplo­mat­ic report last year, the Ramadan fam­i­ly respond­ed in a let­ter to the edi­tor that read in part: ‘Our father nev­er col­lab­o­rat­ed with Amer­i­can or Eng­lish intel­li­gence ser­vices. He was, on the con­trary, the sub­ject of per­ma­nent sur­veil­lance for numer­ous years.’” (Idem.)

25. “Mem­bers of the Ramadan fam­i­ly refused to com­ment. They include two sons, the pop­u­lar Mus­lim intel­lec­tu­al Tariq and his broth­er, Hani, who heads an Islam­ic cen­ter in Gene­va that his father set up. Although he was for­tu­nate to have escaped the Mid­dle East, Mr. Ramadan’s Swiss exile cut him off from his base of sup­port. He began to look around for allies, accord­ing to col­leagues who knew him then. Soon, an oppor­tu­ni­ty pre­sent­ed itself: He was con­tact­ed in 1958 by some Arab stu­dents in Munich eager to build a new mosque.” (Idem.)

26. “The stu­dents had come to Ger­many to study med­i­cine, engi­neer­ing and oth­er dis­ci­plines in which Ger­man edu­ca­tion excelled. Many had been involved with the Mus­lim Broth­er­hood in Egypt and were also using the chance to escape per­se­cu­tion. Mr. Ramadan ‘was a gift­ed ora­tor and we all respect­ed him,’ says Mohamad Ali El-Mah­gary, who now heads an orga­ni­za­tion affil­i­at­ed with the Munich mosque, the Islam­ic Cen­ter of Nurem­berg. The stu­dents quick­ly unit­ed in want­i­ng to get rid of Mr. Naman­gani, the for­mer SS imam. Fired up by Mus­lim Broth­er­hood ide­ol­o­gy, they saw the Uzbek as a throw­back to an ear­li­er era, one where, for exam­ple, local tra­di­tions allowed for drink­ing alco­hol when this was express­ly for­bid­den in the Quran. Over the next three years, Mr. Ramadan and the Broth­er­hood showed their polit­i­cal met­tle — first sidelin­ing the sol­diers and their Ger­man allies, then strik­ing out on their own.” (Idem.)

27. “First Mr. Ramadan teamed up with Amcom­lib to under­mine Mr. Naman­gani. In 1959, he orga­nized the ‘Euro­pean Mus­lim Con­gress’ in Munich, which Mr. von Mende’s infor­mants report­ed was co-financed by Amcom­lib, accord­ing to Ger­man for­eign- min­istry archives and Mr. von Mende’s per­son­al let­ters. The goal: mar­gin­al­ize Mr. Naman­gani by mak­ing Munich’s mosque a Euro­pean-wide cen­ter, not just for Munich’s Mus­lims. For the U.S., this would help strength­en their man, Mr. Gacaoglu, and lim­it the West Ger­mans’ influ­ence over the emi­gres. In 1960, Mr. Ramadan took for­mal con­trol of the mosque-con­struc­tion com­mis­sion, with the stu­dents con­vinc­ing the for­mer sol­diers that only Mr. Ramadan could raise the mon­ey need­ed for a mosque, accord­ing to inter­views. Mr. Ramadan was elect­ed chair­man and Mr. Naman­gani rel­e­gat­ed to deputy.” (Idem.)

28. The rival­ry between the CIA-backed Ramadan/Brotherhood fac­tion and von Mende’s pro­teges deep­ened.

“Flum­moxed, Mr. von Mende tried to fig­ure out what Mr. Ramadan’s goals were. His reports show that he was con­vinced that Mr. Ramadan was work­ing with the U.S. But he need­ed con­fir­ma­tion and so turned to Ger­many’s for­eign-intel­li­gence ser­vice. In a pri­vate let­ter to a for­mer col­league in the Ost­min­is­teri­um, Mr. von Mende asked for infor­ma­tion on Mr. Ramadan and sug­gest­ed steal­ing files from his office in Gene­va. He even esti­mat­ed how much the oper­a­tion would cost, bribes and trav­el costs includ­ed. Mr. von Mende’s BND con­tact con­firmed that Mr. Ramadan was backed by the U.S. As for steal­ing his files, the col­league advised against it: Mr. Ramadan was ‘much too care­ful’ to leave valu­able infor­ma­tion in them.”


29. “Adding to Mr. von Mende’s wor­ries was that the CIA was now open­ly back­ing Mr. Ramadan. In May of 1961, a CIA agent attached to Amcom­lib in Munich, Robert Dreher, brought Mr. Ramadan to Mr. von Mende’s office in Dus­sel­dorf for a meet­ing to pro­pose a joint pro­pa­gan­da effort against the Sovi­et Union, accord­ing to Mr. von Mende’s per­son­al papers and inter­views with con­tem­po­raries of the men. Mr. von Mende quick­ly turned them down. Mr. von Mende decid­ed he had to use Mr. Naman­gani to engi­neer Mr. Ramadan’s removal. At first, it appeared the two had suc­ceed­ed. In late 1961, Mr. Naman­gani called a meet­ing of the mosque com­mis­sion. Mr. Ramadan was accused of finan­cial irreg­u­lar­i­ties. The sol­diers put for­ward a new can­di­date and in a close vote won a sim­ple major­i­ty. In mem­os to each oth­er, Ger­man offi­cials crowed that Mr. Ramadan was gone and with him the plans for a ‘mon­u­men­tal mosque.’” (Idem.)

30. Ex-SS Imam Naman­gani was super­seded by Ramadan, but remained on the Ger­man gov­ern­ment pay­roll.

“But a sharp-eyed city gov­ern­ment offi­cial not­ed that the com­mis­sion’s by-laws had required that Mr. Naman­gani’s can­di­date win a two-thirds major­i­ty. The sim­ple major­i­ty had­n’t been enough. Once again Mr. Ramadan’s abil­i­ty to mobi­lize had been deci­sive: His stu­dents had turned out in force, unlike Mr. Naman­gani’s more-numer­ous sol­diers. Mr. Ramadan was still in charge of the mosque com­mis­sion. Dis­cour­aged, the sol­diers began to leave the com­mis­sion. Mr. Naman­gani remained head of the West Ger­man orga­ni­za­tion that over­saw the for­mer sol­diers’ spir­i­tu­al needs, but had noth­ing more to do with the mosque. In a sev­en-page let­ter to Ger­man offi­cials that is now in the Bavar­i­an state archives, Mr. Naman­gani explained he was tired of fight­ing Mr. Ramadan. ‘The Mosque Con­struc­tion Com­mis­sion has drift­ed far from its orig­i­nal goal and there is the dan­ger that it will become a cen­ter for those engaged in pol­i­tics,’ he wrote.”


31. “The emi­gres’ depar­ture from the mosque com­mis­sion slowed its progress but did­n’t hurt it. The Ger­man bureau­cra­cy, packed with many for­mer Nazis, was still sym­pa­thet­ic to the idea of build­ing a mosque, mem­os among offi­cials show. They appar­ent­ly did­n’t know that their for­mer com­rades-in-arms had left the com­mis­sion. The West Ger­man bureau­cra­cy even gave the mosque project, now firm­ly under Mus­lim Broth­er­hood con­trol, tax-exempt sta­tus, which would be worth mil­lions over the next decades.” (Idem.)

32. “Mr. von Mende, though, real­ized that his Turks were left in the polit­i­cal wilder­ness. In mem­os to the Ger­man for­eign min­istry, he said the fed­er­al gov­ern­ment must do every­thing pos­si­ble to block Mr. Ramadan, whom he saw as a for­eign-backed out­sider. Whether Mr. von Mende could have stopped Mr. Ramadan is unknown: In Decem­ber 1963, while sit­ting at his desk in Dus­sel­dorf, Mr. von Mende had a mas­sive heart attack and died imme­di­ate­ly. He was 58 years old. A few months lat­er, his East­ern Euro­pean Research Ser­vice was closed and Mr. von Mende’s net­work of infor­mants dried up. It would only be decades lat­er, after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the U.S., that Ger­many would seri­ous­ly focus domes­tic intel­li­gence on the Broth­er­hood’s Munich oper­a­tions.” (Idem)

33. Even­tu­al­ly, Ali Galeb Him­mat, part­ner of Youssef Nada in the Bank al-Taqwa assumed a pri­ma­ry posi­tion in the Munich mosque. It was he who helped bring Ramadan to Munich in the 1950’s.

“Cloaked from out­side scruti­ny, the mosque had less and less to do with the needs of Munich’s Mus­lims. And around this time, evi­dence of the CIA’s involve­ment dried up. Instead, con­trol even­tu­al­ly passed to an unlike­ly loca­tion: Cam­pi­one d’I­talia, a swath of man­sions and mil­lion­aires in the Swiss Alps. Here, from a ter­raced vil­la over­look­ing Lake Lugano, one of Mr. Ramadan’s trust­ed lieu­tenants, Ghaleb Him­mat, ran the Munich mosque and influ­enced the net­work that grew out of it. Of all the char­ac­ters in the mosque’s his­to­ry, Mr. Him­mat is the most enig­mat­ic, although he is one of the few still alive. A Syr­i­an, he went to Munich in the 1950s to study but end­ed up amass­ing wealth as a mer­chant. Now under inves­ti­ga­tion by sev­er­al coun­tries for links to ter­ror­ism, he nor­mal­ly shuns pub­lic­i­ty. He agreed to com­ment briefly on the tele­phone for this arti­cle.”


34. “Con­tem­po­raries and archival records indi­cate that Mr. Him­mat was a dri­ving force behind the mosque. In 1958, mem­bers of the mosque com­mis­sion say, he led the move­ment to invite Mr. Ramadan to Munich. Doc­u­ments show that the two worked close­ly togeth­er. They went on fund-rais­ing trips abroad and Mr. Him­mat stood in for Mr. Ramadan when the old­er man was back in Gene­va. Mr. von Mende’s death should have left Mr. Ramadan firm­ly in charge of the project. But over the next few years, he lost con­trol to Mr. Him­mat. The exact nature of their split isn’t clear, but close asso­ciates say it had to do with their dif­fer­ent nation­al­i­ties. Mr. Him­mat denies this, say­ing he does not know why Mr. Ramadan left.” (Ibid.; pp. A12-A13.)

35. “At the same time, Mr. Ramadan was los­ing the sup­port of his Sau­di back­ers. Short of mon­ey, he stopped pub­lish­ing his mag­a­zine in 1967. Over the last quar­ter cen­tu­ry until his death in 1995, Mr. Ramadan’s influ­ence waned. His son Tariq describes him in a book as prone to ‘long silences sunk in mem­o­ry and thoughts, and, often, in bit­ter­ness.’ Mr. Him­mat assumed con­trol of the mosque just before it opened in August of 1973. Under his lead­er­ship, the mosque grew in impor­tance, func­tion­ing as the Mus­lim Broth­er­hood’s de fac­to Euro­pean embassy. As its influ­ence grew, its name changed. From Mosque Con­struc­tion Com­mis­sion, the group became the Islam­ic Com­mu­ni­ty of South­ern Ger­many and, today, the Islam­ic Com­mu­ni­ty of Ger­many. It is now one of the coun­try’s most impor­tant Islam­ic orga­ni­za­tions, rep­re­sent­ing 60 mosques and Islam­ic cen­ters nation­wide.” (Ibid.; p. A13.)

36. “The group also became a cor­ner­stone in a net­work of orga­ni­za­tions that have pro­mot­ed across Europe the Mus­lim Broth­er­hood way of think­ing. The Islam­ic Com­mu­ni­ty of Ger­many, for exam­ple, helped found the U.K.-based Fed­er­a­tion of Islam­ic Orga­ni­za­tions in Europe, which unites groups close to the Mus­lim Broth­er­hood and lob­bies the Euro­pean Union. Mr. Him­mat says the mosque has always been open to all Mus­lims but that the Broth­er­hood came to dom­i­nate it because its mem­bers are the most active. ‘If the Mus­lim Broth­er­hood con­sid­ers me one of them, it is an hon­or for me,’ Mr. Him­mat said in the tele­phone inter­view. ‘They are non­vi­o­lent. They are for inter­re­li­gious dis­cus­sion. They are active for free­dom.’” (Idem.)

37. “For decades, Ger­man author­i­ties paid lit­tle atten­tion to the activ­i­ties in Munich, view­ing them as uncon­nect­ed to Ger­man soci­ety. They were slow to grasp the warn­ing signs. In 1993, after a car-bomb attack on the World Trade Cen­ter in New York killed six and injured 1,000, inves­ti­ga­tors dis­cov­ered that one of the orga­niz­ers was Mah­moud Abouhal­i­ma, who had fre­quent­ed the mosque. He was tried in the U.S. and in 1994 was sen­tenced to life in prison with­out parole. Ger­man domes­tic intel­li­gence began to observe the mosque, intel­li­gence offi­cials say, but dropped their efforts after a short while when no links to ter­ror­ism appeared.” (Idem.)

38. “The Sept. 11 attacks changed that. Three of the four lead hijack­ers had stud­ied in Ger­many, as did anoth­er key orga­niz­er. As Ger­man and U.S. law enforce­ment searched for clues, some, it is only now becom­ing appar­ent, led back to the Munich mosque. Mr. Him­mat, it turned out, was one of the founders of Bank al-Taqwa, a Bahamas- based insti­tu­tion whose share­hold­er list is a who’s who of peo­ple asso­ci­at­ed with the Mus­lim Broth­er­hood in Europe. The bank has been iden­ti­fied by inves­ti­ga­tors in sev­er­al West­ern coun­tries as hav­ing links to ter­ror­ism. Inves­ti­ga­tors believe the bank helped chan­nel mon­ey to the Pales­tin­ian ter­ror­ist group Hamas and may have trans­ferred mon­ey for al Qae­da oper­a­tives.” (Idem.)

39. “In 2001, the U.S. issued a list of ‘des­ig­nat­ed’ ter­ror­ists that includ­ed Mr. Him­mat and a fel­low share­hold­er, Youssef Nada. The Trea­sury Depart­ment froze their U.S. assets. Last month, Swiss author­i­ties dropped their own inves­ti­ga­tion, cit­ing lack of evi­dence. The men’s mon­ey, how­ev­er, remains frozen and the U.S. has indi­cat­ed that it is con­tin­u­ing its inves­ti­ga­tion. Messrs. Him­mat and Nada deny any involve­ment in ter­ror­ism. A long­time mem­ber of the Munich mosque, Mr. Nada said in an inter­view that he no longer attends it or its board meet­ings. He said the mosque was­n’t a for­mal head­quar­ters for the Broth­er­hood because the group is no longer a for­mal orga­ni­za­tion. Now, he says, it has become some­thing dif­fer­ent: a matrix of ideas. ‘There is no form you sign,’ Mr. Nada said. ‘We are not an eco­nom­ic and polit­i­cal orga­ni­za­tion. We are a way of think­ing.’” (Idem.)

40. “The U.S. ter­ror-fund­ing inves­ti­ga­tion was enough to end Mr. Him­mat’s career at the Islam­ic Com­mu­ni­ty of Ger­many. In 2002, he resigned, he said, because by being put on the ter­ror­ism watch list he was no longer able to sign checks for the com­mu­ni­ty, mean­ing it could­n’t pay its staff. He says the orga­ni­za­tion is doing well on its own and he does­n’t con­tem­plate return­ing to it. ‘It is run­ning,’ he said. ‘There is no need.’ In April, Ger­man police raid­ed the mosque, claim­ing that it was involved with mon­ey laun­der­ing and spread­ing intol­er­ant mate­r­i­al, a crime in Ger­many. Police cart­ed off com­put­ers and files from the offices. That was one of sev­er­al raids on the cen­ter, although none have result­ed in charges.” (Idem.)

41. “Mosque offi­cials say the orga­ni­za­tion’s days as a focal point of polit­i­cal Islam are long over. ‘This cen­ter has devel­oped from a cen­ter that was impor­tant in Ger­many and inter­na­tion­al­ly to a local insti­tu­tion,’ says Ahmad von Denf­fer, a leader of the mosque. The Islam­ic Com­mu­ni­ty of Ger­many has since moved its oper­a­tions to Cologne, where its cur­rent pres­i­dent resides. Inside the world of polit­i­cal Islam, though, the Islam­ic Cen­ter of Munich remains some­thing spe­cial. Some of the ide­ol­o­gy’s top lead­ers have served or spo­ken there. And the Mus­lim Broth­er­hood’s cur­rent mur­shid, or ‘supreme guide,’ Mahdy Akef, head­ed the cen­ter.” (Idem.)

42. “Mr. Akef fond­ly remem­bers his time in Munich from 1984 to 1987. A short, friend­ly man with an elfish smile and big glass­es, Mr. Akef says the cen­ter is now one of sev­er­al belong­ing to the Mus­lim Broth­er­hood in Europe. Dur­ing his stay there, he says, vis­it­ing states­men from the Mus­lim world vis­it­ed the Munich mosque to pay respects to the world’s most pow­er­ful Islam­ic orga­ni­za­tion. The mosque was so impor­tant that when he was arrest­ed in Egypt in the 1990s on alle­ga­tions that he had tried to form an Islam­ic polit­i­cal par­ty, one of the charges against him was that he head­ed the cen­ter.” (Idem.)

43. “The Mus­lim Broth­er­hood is still for­mal­ly banned in Egypt but a tiny office in Cairo is tol­er­at­ed. Sit­ting on a sofa under a map of the world with Mus­lim nations col­ored green, Mr. Akef says the Broth­er­hood did indeed spread out from Munich to oth­ers cities in Ger­many and Europe. Mr. Akef is a con­tro­ver­sial fig­ure who has spo­ken sym­pa­thet­i­cal­ly about sui­cide bombers in Iraq. But he avoids answer­ing ques­tions about ter­ror­ism or fun­da­men­tal­ism. . . .” (Idem.)


One comment for “FTR #518 Islamism in Europe”

  1. [...] on to what Ian Johnson’s book explores. The source is Spit­fire List‘s ‘Islamism in Europe’ and quotes are from Johnson’s brief his­to­ry for the Wall Street Jour­nal (2005) to the [...]

    Posted by How the Muslim Brotherhood expanded in Europe — part 2 | Orphans of Liberty | February 5, 2014, 3:33 pm

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