by Kevin Coogan
On November 7, 2001, the U.S government’s Office of the Coordinator of Counterterrorism issued a list of some 62 organizations and individuals suspected of involvement in terrorist organizations, and in particular with Osama bin-Laden’s Al Qaeda network. Number 56 on the list was Achmed Albert Friedrich Armand Huber, a former Swiss journalist with close ties both to Islamic fundamentalists and far-right extremists. A longtime convert to Islam, the 74-year-old Huber was cited by the government for his presence on the five-man managing committee of Nada Management, a Lugano-based financial institution, which was known as Al Taqwa (Fear of God) Management prior to March 2001. Al Taqwa was specifically placed on the list due to suspicions that it may have played a key role in laundering money for bin Laden. A few hours before the official announcement from Washington, police officials raided Al Taqwa’s offices in Switzerland and Liechtenstein, as well as Huber’s home in Muri, a suburb of Bern, and the homes of Youssef Nada and Ali Ghaleb Himmat, two other Al Taqwa directors who were also on the U.S. list. Al Taqwa’s accounts were frozen as well. A few weeks later, on November 29, Italian investigators shut down a Milan-based Islamic Cultural Center suspected of being Al Qaeda’s logistical center for European operations. The Center’s key financial supporter, Ahmed Idris Nasreddin, a wealthy businessman and Kuwait’s former honorary consul in Milan, was yet another Al Taqwa director. Finally, in early January of 2002, Al Taqwa announced that it was closing its doors for good.
The closing of Al Taqwa’s doors, however, has done little to eliminate interest in Huber’s own ties to Islamic extremism. Shortly after September 11th, Huber himself drew attention to a possible Al Taqwa link to bin Laden when he stated that while attending an Islamic conference in Beirut, he had encountered some of bin Laden’s cadre, whom he described as “very discrete, well-educated, highly intelligent people — an entirely different quality than earlier.” Huber also described 9/11 as an act of “counter-terror” against the World Trade Center, a “tower of godlessness,” and the Pentagon, “a symbol of Satan.” He denied, however, any financial dealings with bin Laden and stressed that Al Taqwa was strictly involved in financing development projects in Third World countries. In a September 20, 2001 interview with the Swiss publication FACTS, Huber claimed that attempts to link Al Taqwa to bin Laden were “an invention of the Mossad.”
To those familiar with Huber, his statements regarding September 11th were hardly surprising. Born in Freiburg, Switzerland, in 1927 to Protestant parents, Huber’s penchant for political extremism began in the late 1950s when, as a member of the Swiss Socialist Party, he helped shelter a group of Muslims who had come to Switzerland to buy weapons for the Algerian struggle against French rule. Huber was so impressed by his conversations with them that he began studying Islam. He then made shahada (the profession of faith in Islam) at an Islamic center in Geneva founded by the Muslim Brotherhood. Huber, however, was warned by Fathi el-Dhib, Egypt’s then-ambassador to Switzerland (whose secretary Huber would later marry), that the Nasser government was hostile to the Muslim Brotherhood. He recommended that Huber make a second shahada in Egypt, which Huber did in February 1962 at Cairo’s famous Al-Ahzar University.
After spending more time in the Middle East, Huber abandoned his earlier pro-Israeli views with a vengeance. He told the French investigative journalist Pierre Péan that in 1965 he began to accept the views of the Egyptian-based Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, Amin al-Husseini, who gave Huber “a totally different version” of the history and nature of the Third Reich. The Grand Mufti knew Hitler personally and actively collaborated with the Axis powers in World War II. (The Mufti was even responsible for creating the Bosnian-based 13th Waffen-SS Division that was composed of Muslim recruits.) Huber further told Péan that, while he was in Egypt, he also grew close to Johann von Leers, a fanatical Jew hater, former Nazi Propaganda Ministry official, and the Grand Mufti’s good friend. Leers had relocated to Egypt in the mid-1950s, where he converted to Islam and changed his name to Omar Amin von Leers. He remained in Cairo until his death in 1965, helping to direct Nasser’s propaganda apparatus, which regularly churned out Nazi-like anti-Semitic propaganda throughout the Arab world.
Back in Switzerland, Huber next became close friends with the Swiss banker François Genoud, whom Huber recalls first meeting in “pro-Arab associations.” Best known for funding Klaus Barbie’s legal defense team, Genoud held the legal copyright to writings by Hitler, Goebbels, and Martin Bormann. Genoud, who committed suicide in 1996, is also believed to have played a key role in the postwar management of Nazi funds. In the late 1960s he also worked closely with radical Palestinian groups, particularly the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP). Along with organizing legal support for captured PFLP militants, he even helped coordinate the PFLP’s hijacking of a Lufthansa Boeing 747 en route from Delhi to Aden. Through his ties to the PFLP leader Dr. Waddi Haddad (who affectionately dubbed him “Sheikh François”), Genoud befriended Ilich Ramirez Sánchez, better known as “Carlos the Jackal.” Both men remained in close contact right up to Genoud’s death.
At the same time that Genoud was developing close ties to the leftist PFLP, Huber was actively promoting pro-Arab views inside the Swiss left. While working as a Social Democratic journalist whose beat was the Swiss parliament, he became involved with the “Bern Nonconformists.” The Nonconformists were a mix of 1960s counterculture activists, poets, painters, and New Leftists. Inside the Nonconformists, Huber used leftist rhetoric to push an anti-American, anti-Israeli, and strongly neutralist line. In the 1970s, however, he found it increasingly difficult to operate inside the Left. The Swiss Socialist Party finally expelled Huber in 1994 for “Khomeinismus, Anti-Femininismus und Kontakt mit Rechtradikalen [far rightists].”
Huber’s statements regarding September 11th reflect a broader consensus inside the far right. They also echo the remarks of his friend Horst Mahler, a former leader of the far-left terrorist group, the Rote Armee Fraktion (RAF; Red Army Faction, also known as the Baader/Meinhof Gang), who is today a leading spokesman for the far-right Nationaldemokratische Partei Deutschland (NPD). Shortly after the WTC attack, Mahler issued a statement entitled “Independence Day live.” In it, he argued that 9/11 “marked the end of the American Century, the end of global capitalism,” and with it, the end of the secular “Jahwah-Cult of Mammonism.” Huber is also a popular speaker at NPD events. In October 2000, for example, he addressed the seventh “European congress” of the NPD’s youth organization, Junge Nationaldemokraten (JN), on the topic “Islam and the New Right.” On September 8, 2001, a few days before the WTC attack, he lectured on “Israel and the Muslim World” to another NPD-sponsored gathering in Saxony that attracted well over 1,000 radical rightists. The September issue of the NPD publication Deutsche Stimme also carried a lengthy interview with Huber (conducted before 9/11) in which he praised the Bush Administration for not having any “Jewish Zionist” advisors. “That’s very important for us,” he remarked. Huber’s friendly feelings towards George, Jr. changed radically after he was publicly identified as a potential terrorist supporter. “It is for me an honor,” he told the press, “to be put on the list from the USA gangster regime.”
While until now there has been no “smoking gun” directly linking Al Taqwa to bin Laden, what is clear is that Al Taqwa is far from an ordinary financial institution, even without Huber’s presence on its board. Al Taqwa has served for years as a key financial institution for the Muslim Brotherhood. Founded in Egypt in the late 1920s by Hassan al-Banna, the Muslim Brotherhood has fought for over 70 years for the formation of a pure pan-Islamic theocratic state. Youssef Nada and Ali Ghaleb Himmat, the two Al Taqwa directors cited along with Huber on the U.S. list, are acknowledged longtime Brothers. According to the German newsweekly Der Spiegel, Himmat is also the president of the Bavaria-based Islamische Gesellschaft Deutschlands (IGD: Islamic Society of Germany), an organization founded by the Muslim Brotherhood that German authorities consider an ideological breeding ground for Islamic extremists. Himmat also serves as a director of the Geneva branch of the International Islamic Charitable Organization (IICO), headquartered in Kuwait. Another IICO director, the Qatar-based Youssef al-Qardawi, is president of Al Taqwa’s counsel of religious advisors, which insures that the bank does not violate any teachings of the Koran. Qardawi, a fiery speaker who is considered one of the Muslim Brotherhood’s top spiritual leaders, is also an open supporter of Hamas. He even issued a fatwah declaring Hamas suicide bombers martyrs and their acts “the highest form of jihad.” Al Taqwa’s financial involvement with Hamas became known after a 1997 scandal involving the disappearance of a large part of Hamas’s treasury led to an internal investigation by Hamas that included a careful examination of Al Taqwa’s role in the affair.
Inside the Middle East, Egypt has been the most vigorous opponent of the Muslim Brotherhood. The Egyptian government has been at war with the Muslim Brotherhood since the early 1950s, when then Egyptian president Gamal Abdul Nasser banned the group and arrested many of its leaders. As an organization committed to the establishment of a pan-Islamic state, the Muslim Brotherhood bitterly opposed Nasser’s secular form of pan-Arab nationalism. The Muslim Brotherhood’s staunch opposition to secular nationalism has also attracted financial support, particularly from Saudi Arabia. Saudi funds have also flowed into Al Taqwa’s coffers. Huber himself even boasted about Al Taqwa’s Saudi connection to Swiss journalist Richard Labévière. Asked by Labévière about Al Taqwa’s finances, Huber replied:
As for the money, I cannot give details — except for Saudi Arabia, because that will change the bad perception people have of this country. Of course, the government is under American surveillance, but the kingdom has the great advantage of being a feudal state that leaves the great families total freedom to manage their oil funds as they wish. That’s great! And today, the Saudis are very active, the details of their funds that come to the bank are a matter of bank secrecy.
The Muslim Brotherhood’s close links to Al Taqwa, it is important to note, have also been cited as evidence of Al Taqwa’s political moderation. This argument asserts that in countries like Egypt, Algeria, and Turkey, the Muslim Brotherhood has supported the movement for political democracy precisely because the ruling regimes in these nations have used anti-democratic measures to prevent Islamist parties from gaining political power. In Egypt, for example, while the Muslim Brotherhood is still technically banned, it remains that nation’s largest opposition party and 17 Brothers hold seats in Egypt’s parliament as independents. The Brotherhood contends that it represents the moderate wing of political Islam as opposed to overt terrorist groups like Islamic Jihad. To the Muslim Brotherhood’s critics, however, the alleged sharp division between the “moderate” Brothers and the jihadist militants is far from clear.
Even if one accepts the notion that Al Taqwa may have the same highly ambiguous relationship to Islamist terror as the Muslim Brotherhood itself, there can be little doubt about Huber’s involvement with a highly visible terrorist regime. While Huber has worked closely with the Sunni wing of Islam represented by the Muslim Brotherhood and Al Taqwa, he has long been a leading supporter of the Shiite fundamentalist regime that took power in Iran in 1979 under the leadership of the Ayatollah Khomeini. Since then, Iran has sponsored countless acts of terrorism, including the Iranian-backed Hezbollah movement’s destruction of the U.S. Embassy in Lebanon and — it would appear — the subsequent bombing of Israeli’s embassy in Argentina. Iran’s continuing use of violence led the U.S. State Department to identify Iran as “the most active state sponsor of terrorism in 2000.”
Huber’s own ties to Iran are hardly secret. In 1989, amid a flurry of publicity, he lost his journalist position with the Swiss press group Ringier after he openly supported Iran’s fatwah condemning Salman Rushdie to death for his book The Satanic Verses. Huber’s services to Iran are so highly valued that he is reportedly the only European Muslim ever to give a speech before the tomb of Imam Khomeini. Iran also gives political sanctuary to Huber’s comrades in the Holocaust-denial movement and Radio Tehran regularly broadcasts interviews with “Holocaust revisionists.” Huber is also a prominent speaker at Iranian-allied Islamic gatherings across the world, including America. He even explained how easy it was for him to visit the U.S. undetected: “Because I was registered in all the CIA computers as Achmed, but my passport still remains Albert, I can enter and exit the USA without any problem.” Huber has presented talks to pro-Khomeini groups like the Persian Speaking Group of the Muslim Students’ Association (MSA). At the 27th MSA convention held in Chicago in December 1997, for example, Huber spoke on Islam at two panels with Imam Adbul Alim Musa and Sheikh Mohammad Al-Asi, both of whom are associated with the pro-Khomeini Institute of Contemporary Islamic Thought (ICIT). Huber also appeared with both men a year earlier at another pro-Khomeini conference organized by the Muslim Parliament (MP), which was held in London in November 1996 and which advertised participation by representatives from both Hezbollah and Hamas.
Even as Huber plays a major role in Islamist networks, he remains highly active inside Europe’s far right elite. Along with a poster of Imam Khomeini and a framed quote from Hitler denouncing modern art, Huber’s house contains a photo of his friend Jörg Haider, Austria’s leading electorial rightist. But Huber’s most eye-opening picture displays both himself and Genoud at a meeting in Spain with Léon Degrelle, a Waffen-SS General who Hitler once said he wanted to adopt as a son. Degrelle, who lived in Spain in order to escape war crimes charges in his native Belgium, was a top leader of the postwar ultra right.
Inside Switzerland, Huber helps direct the Avalon Gemeinschaft, an elite far right group whose members include former Waffen SS volunteers. Each year Avalon’s cadre retire to the woods during the summer solstice and conduct ritual celebrations of Europe’s pagan past. Jürg Frischknecht, a leading expert on the Swiss far right, reports that Avalon — using the cover name “Studiengruppe für Geschichte” (History Study Group) — regularly sponsors lectures from leading Holocaust-deniers, such as France’s Robert Faurisson, that are held at four star hotels in Bern. Huber has also worked tirelessly to forge alliances between European rightists and Islamists, telling his fellow Europeans that their “enemies are not the Turks, but rather the American and German politicians with an American ‘brain’.” Huber hopes to establish an alliance between the anti-immigration European right and the Islamists based on the understanding that once Islamist parties take power, large scale Muslim emigration to the West would end. Huber even organized a meeting between Jean-Marie Le Pen, head of France’s largest “national populist” party, the Front National, and Huber’s close friend Necmettin Erbakan, the head of the now banned Turkish Islamist party Refah (Welfare), to develop a joint position on immigration.
In order to promote closer ties between the Euro-right and Islam, Huber regularly points out to his rightist comrades that the Arabs were some of Nazi Germany’s strongest supporters and remain so to this day. In his September 2001 interview in Deutsche Stimme, for example, Huber proudly reported that at a large Palestinian congress held in Tehran, Iran’s supreme religious leader, the Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, publicly rejected claims by “Zionists and Marxists” concerning German war crimes. Ayatollah Khamenei then stated that Muslims saw Germany differently both because the Nazis fought against colonial powers like England, France, Belgium, and Holland and also “because the Third Reich, in the view of Muslims, contained some interesting Islamic elements,” by which Khamenei was almost certainly referring the Grand Mufti’s role in World War II.
Huber has also tried to establish direct organizational links between U.S. and European-based “Holocaust revisionists” and their Arab allies. Earlier this year, Huber and three of his closest collaborators, the NPD’s Horst Mahler, Jürgen Graf (a leading Swiss Holocaust denier who fled to Iran to avoid serving a 15-month jail sentence for his activities), and the Swedish-based Ahmed Rami, a former Moroccan military officer who in 1987 founded Radio Islam to disseminate anti-Semitic, Holocaust denial, and pro-Nazi propaganda, teamed up with the California-based Institute for Historical Review (IHR) — the world’s leading “Holocaust denial” organization — to organize an IHR-sponsored conference that was scheduled to take place in late March in a Hezbollah-controlled section of Beirut, Lebanon. Protests from Jewish groups, however, eventually forced the Lebanese government to ban the proposed gathering.
Looking back on Huber’s career, it seems clear is that he has been most concerned with finding allies in the Muslim world to help him wage war against both Israel and the West. From the late 1950s until the 1970s, he publicly cast his lot with secular pan-Arabists like Nasser. In the wake of Egypt’s military defeats in both the 1967 and 1973 Arab-Israeli wars, and after Nasser’s successor Anwar Sadat signed a peace accord with Israel, Huber discovered an even more virulent form of anti-Western fanaticism in Iran. In 1982, he wrote an essay for a book entitled Der Unbekannte Islam that still serves to define his political views today. In it, Huber identifies the “triple aggression” that he sees directed against Islam. The first aggression, naturally, is Zionism, whereas the second is Marxism, which Huber condemns both for the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan as well as for Marxism’s corruption of Islamic intellectuals. He then identifies the third and final aggression as “the ‘American Way of Life, which many Muslims have felt as specifically ‘New-York-ish’ and thus essentially ‘Jewish.’ ”
Clearly Huber is convinced that the “New-York-ish” American Way of Life is destroying Islam. Now it is the task of investigators in both America and Europe to determine whether or not Huber and his friends in Al Taqwa have used “Islam” to destroy both New York and the American way of life.