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Jihad and Jew-Hatred

Islamism, Nazism and the Roots of 9/11

by Matthias Küntzel
2007, Telos Press
ISBN-10: 0914386360
ISBN-13: 978–0914386360
180 pages

Jihad and Jew-Hatred makes a major con­tri­bu­tion to the under­stand­ing of rad­i­cal Islamism by trac­ing the impact of Euro­pean fas­cism on the Arab and Islam­ic world. Draw­ing exten­sive­ly on Ger­man-lan­guage sources, Matthias Küntzel ana­lyzes the close rela­tion­ship that began in the 1930s between Nazi lead­ers and Mus­lim extrem­ists, espe­cial­ly the Egypt­ian Mus­lim Broth­er­hood and the Mufti of Jerusalem. This path-break­ing book pro­vides com­pelling doc­u­men­ta­tion of the Nazi roots of what became Islamo-fas­cism and jihadist ter­ror.

This study demon­strates in his­tor­i­cal detail how the Mus­lim Broth­er­hood has con­sis­tent­ly placed the hatred of Jews at the cen­ter of its ide­ol­o­gy and poli­cies through an incen­di­ary rhetoric that inter­weaves pas­sages from the Koran hos­tile to Jews with ele­ments of Nazi-style world-con­spir­a­cy the­o­ries. Ancient prej­u­dice and mod­ern fan­tasies have become a dead­ly com­bi­na­tion.

Jihad and Jew-Hatred also explains how the defeat of Nazi Ger­many in 1945 led to the shift of the cen­ter of glob­al anti­semitism to the Arab world, lay­ing the foun­da­tion for rad­i­cal Islamist cur­rents in and around the Mus­lim Broth­er­hood and more recent ter­ror­ist orga­ni­za­tions.

Küntzel con­vinc­ing­ly shows that anti­semitism is no mere sup­ple­men­tary fea­ture of mod­ern jihadism, and cer­tain­ly no after­thought but its defin­ing ide­o­log­i­cal core. This hatred also goes far beyond ques­tions of Zion­ism and Israel. For Islamism, not only is every­thing Jew­ish evil, but every evil is Jew­ish, as the writ­ings of Sayyid Qutb and the Char­ter of Hamas clear­ly explain to any­one will­ing to read them. It was this Jew-hatred that fueled the Jihad of the 9/11 ter­ror­ists.

The Ger­man schol­ar Matthias Kuentzel . . . takes anti-Semi­tism, and in par­tic­u­lar its most potent cur­rent strain, Mus­lim anti-Semi­tism, very seri­ous­ly indeed. His brac­ing, even star­tling, book, Jihad and Jew-Hatred (trans­lat­ed by Col­in Meade), reminds us that it is per­ilous to ignore idi­ot­ic ideas if these idi­ot­ic ideas are broad­ly, and fer­vent­ly, believed. . . . Kuentzel is right to state that we are wit­ness­ing a ter­ri­ble explo­sion of anti-Jew­ish hatred in the Mid­dle East, and he is right to be shocked. His invalu­able con­tri­bu­tion, in fact, is his capac­i­ty to be shocked, by the rhetoric of hate and by its con­se­quences. The for­mer Hamas leader Abdel Aziz Rantisi once told me that “the ques­tion is not what the Ger­mans did to the Jews, but what the Jews did to the Ger­mans.” The Jews, he said, deserved their pun­ish­ment. Kuentzel argues that we should see men like Rantisi for what they are: heirs to the mufti, and heirs to the Nazis.
Jef­frey Gold­berg, New York Times

Kuentzel’s method is a dialec­ti­cal mas­ter­piece; he is a social sci­en­tist who pur­sues con­nec­tions. The sui­cide attacks of the intifa­da in Israel are, for Kuentzel, inher­ent­ly linked to the attacks in Amer­i­ca on Sep­tem­ber 11. That explains his rem­e­dy for fight­ing anti-Semi­tism: “Who­ev­er does not want to com­bat anti-Semi­tism . . . has­n’t the slight­est chance of beat­ing Islamism.” Kuentzel is in many ways the mod­ern suc­ces­sor to Paul Merk­er, a rare voice in Ger­many, who, like Merk­er’s view of Arab princes as embody­ing “reac­tionary inter­ests,” shifts the terms of the dis­cus­sion to anti-Jew­ish ide­ol­o­gy as the sine qua non of under­stand­ing rad­i­cal polit­i­cal Islam, its destruc­tive ener­gy and its social and polit­i­cal vio­lence.
Ben­jamin Weinthal, Haaretz

About the Author
Matthias Küntzel is a Ger­man author and a polit­i­cal sci­en­tist. He is a research asso­ciate at the Hebrew Uni­ver­si­ty of Jerusalem and a mem­ber of Schol­ars for Peace in the Mid­dle East.

THIS BOOK IS IN PRINT. Avail­able com­mer­cial­ly. Find out more about Matthias Küntzel.


One comment for “Jihad and Jew-Hatred”

  1. This arti­cle men­tions oth­er sourced, how­ev­er, I am cur­rent­ly read­ing Nazis, Islamists, and the Mak­ing of the Mod­ern Mid­dle East by Bar­ry Rubin and Wolf­gang G. Schwanitz, which I can’t rec­om­mend strong­ly enough.



    Ger­many’s grand First World War jihad exper­i­ment
    A lit­tle-known PoW camp just out­side Berlin was ded­i­cat­ed to turn­ing Allied Mus­lim sol­diers into jihad war­riors
    The Ger­man jihad; an unlike­ly First World War alliance Pho­to: Pop­per­fo­to

    By Flo­rence Waters

    7:00AM BST 10 Aug 2014

    If his­to­ry is dic­tat­ed by the con­cerns of the historian’s day, then it’s sur­pris­ing more of us haven’t heard the sto­ry of the Halb­mond­lager, or “Half Moon Camp”, a small First World War pris­on­er-of-war camp in Zossen, near Berlin.

    It was like no oth­er PoW camp in his­to­ry. Reserved pri­mar­i­ly for Mus­lim pris­on­ers, detainees lived in rel­a­tive lux­u­ry and were giv­en every­thing they need­ed to prac­tise their faith. Spir­i­tu­al texts were pro­vid­ed, Ramadan observed, a mosque erect­ed – the first on Ger­man soil – and there were ser­mons by vis­it­ing spir­i­tu­al lead­ers and aca­d­e­mics.

    But Half Moon Camp was not some torch­bear­er for the more enlight­ened treat­ment of PoWs ush­ered in lat­er by the Gene­va Con­ven­tion. It was, instead, the sym­bol­ic cen­tre of a spec­tac­u­lar­ly unsuc­cess­ful pet project of Kaiser Wil­helm II: to turn Mus­lim sol­diers fight­ing for Britain and France into jihadists loy­al to Ger­many. Exten­sive­ly writ­ten about in Ger­man his­to­ry books but else­where a long-for­got­ten sto­ry of the Great War, the camp’s extra­or­di­nary role is final­ly being high­light­ed as part of the renewed scruti­ny of the con­flict in this cen­te­nary year.

    The unlike­ly prophet of the jihad was Ger­man aris­to­crat, adven­tur­er and diplo­mat Max von Oppen­heim. The 54-year-old had returned to the Heimat after 20 years of trav­el and study in the Ori­ent and, before Britain had even declared war on Ger­many, had con­vinced the Kaiser that Islam was Germany’s secret weapon. Oppen­heim believed that a well-orches­trat­ed pro­pa­gan­da cam­paign would stir up a mass Mus­lim upris­ing against Britain and France from with­in colo­nial ter­ri­to­ries such as India, Indo-Chi­na and north and west Africa.

    “A lot of Ger­mans thought he was a crank,” says Eugene Rogan, the author of forth­com­ing book The Fall of the Ottomans. “He had idio­syn­crat­ic views about the irra­tional extrem­ist way that Mus­lims would behave.” The Kaiser, though, took him at his word. Wil­helm vowed to “inflame the whole Mohammedan world” against the British and on August 2 1914 a secret treaty between Ger­many and the Ottoman Empire marked the begin­ning of a bizarre polit­i­cal mar­riage between the Kaiser and Sul­tan Mehmed V.

    That same day Oppen­heim moved into his bureau in Berlin, the head­quar­ters of his jihad pro­pa­gan­da machine.

    The PoWs, who had fought valiant­ly for the Allied pow­ers in the ear­ly bat­tles of the First World War, were prime tar­gets, con­fined as they were to a con­trolled envi­ron­ment a short dis­tance from Oppenheim’s HQ. “I’m sure the Ger­mans believed they would be fair­ly mal­leable to a mes­sage that turned them against the Entente and played on their Islam,” says Rogan.

    Mus­lim pris­on­ers of war were used as pawns in the project right from the start. In ear­ly Novem­ber, when the Sul­tan – by arrange­ment with Ger­many – announced Britain, France and Rus­sia the ene­mies of Islam from a mosque in Con­stan­tino­ple, the Ger­man ambas­sador in the city fol­lowed with a flam­boy­ant announce­ment on the embassy bal­cony, flanked by 14 of Germany’s ear­li­est Mus­lim pris­on­ers, from Moroc­co, Alge­ria and Tunisia.

    Their duty was to deliv­er script­ed lines in Ara­bic and Turk­ish promis­ing the crowds that they would take the Ger­man jihad to North Africa. After­wards, they are said to have car­ried Karl Emil Sch­abinger von Schowin­gen, an ally of Oppenheim’s, in a chaise longue through the streets, encour­ag­ing demon­stra­tors to loot and burn any shops owned by the French and Eng­lish. So the sto­ry goes, the affair was crowned with a sym­bol­ic flour­ish when Sch­abinger’s entourage entered the lob­by of his hotel and his police escort sent a sin­gle bul­let into an Eng­lish grand­fa­ther clock.

    The Ger­man ori­en­tal­ist Max von Oppen­heim arranged for a mosque to be built at the Half Moon PoW camp

    The spec­ta­cle set the tone for the pro­pa­gan­da effort, as Oppenheim’s PoW camp depend­ed on sim­i­lar lev­els of care­ful­ly orches­trat­ed hot air. Only 4,000–5,000 pris­on­ers were detained in the camp (though Mus­lim sol­diers were also housed in the neigh­bour­ing camp of Wein­berg, where the pro­pa­gan­da effort was extend­ed), but as the tokenism of the Half Moon Camp’s name sug­gests, the place was self-con­scious­ly styled as a the­atre for the wider world. As Ger­man his­to­ri­an Heike Liebau explains in the BBC doc­u­men­tary The World’s War, to be broad­cast this week, Half Moon was a “show camp”.

    Post­cards were print­ed show­ing pris­on­ers tak­ing part in sport and reli­gious ser­vices, and engaged in the slaugh­ter of ani­mals for halal meat. The biggest show­piece of all was the Ottoman-style wood­en mosque, with ornate arched door­ways, a broad dome and a sin­gle minaret. It was built “to prove that Ger­many was the true friend of Islam”, says Liebau. “It was not built out of reli­gious ideas, it was built on the expec­ta­tion that it would serve the pro­pa­gan­da pur­pos­es that Ger­many had.” Oppenheim’s office spread the rumour that Kaiser Wil­helm him­self had paid for its cost­ly con­struc­tion out of his own pock­et.

    “We know [the pris­on­ers] had vis­it­ing speak­ers so they must have had class­es or lec­tures,” says Rogan. “The mosque was cer­tain­ly there as a place of wor­ship, but Fri­day ser­mons are an oppor­tu­ni­ty to politi­cise, so they would have used the pul­pit to con­tin­ue their mes­sage. In that sense build­ing a mosque was about more than giv­ing peo­ple free­dom of wor­ship. It was about cre­at­ing a place where the mes­sage could be rein­forced by a reli­gious author­i­ty.”

    The extra­or­di­nary care that went into the cre­ation of Half Moon’s unique envi­ron­ment was large­ly owing to the efforts of one high­ly dri­ven indi­vid­ual report­ing to Oppenheim’s bureau.

    Shaykh Sâlih al-Sharîf, a Tunisian nation­al­ist, had come to Berlin from the Ottoman intel­li­gence ser­vice. Dis­tin­guish­ing him­self ear­ly with a writ­ten doc­u­ment for Oppen­heim called Jihad is an Oblig­a­tion, which was used by the Ger­man press to illus­trate that the holy war was not “made in Ger­many”, Sâlih cut a strik­ing fig­ure in the office, always going around in dis­tinc­tive tra­di­tion­al burnous (hood­ed cloak) and tur­ban.

    A strong sup­port­er of Maghreb inde­pen­dence, Sâlih took his job as pro­pa­gan­dist rather beyond the call of duty by mak­ing treach­er­ous vis­its to the trench­es in per­son. Wit­ness­es report see­ing his tur­baned head appear­ing above the para­pet of a Ger­man trench appeal­ing in clas­si­cal Ara­bic, across no-man’s‑land, to the Mus­lims in the French lines. His con­fi­dence bol­stered, Sâlih even wrote a per­son­al let­ter to the Kaiser rec­om­mend­ing that Germany’s pres­tige in the Arab world would be great­ly increased were he to lib­er­ate his own colo­nial ter­ri­to­ries in east and west Africa – advice that was polite­ly refused.

    Accord­ing to Ger­man his­tor­i­cal accounts Sâlih ded­i­cat­ed a lot of his ener­gies to the PoW camp, where he was able to realise the role of spir­i­tu­al leader. He gave talks and ser­mons, insti­gat­ed the camp’s pro­pa­gan­da news­pa­per, Al-Dji­had, first pro­duced in March 1915 in Ara­bic, and wrote arti­cles for it. He also made sure his congregation’s phys­i­cal wel­fare was tak­en care of.

    In front of the mosque at Half Moon Camp

    For­mer Half Moon Camp PoW Ahmed bin Hus­sein, a farmer from Mar­rakesh, gave an enthu­si­as­tic account of camp life in First World War inter­ro­ga­tion records recent­ly pub­lished in Turkey. “They even made a favour of us, and gave us a kitchen. Pork was not to be giv­en to us. They gave us good meat, pilaf, chick­peas etc. They gave three blan­kets, under­wear, and a new pair of shoes, etc. To each of us. They took us to the baths once in every three days and cut our hair.”

    He goes on to describe how recruiters vis­it­ed the camp, and how he was among a dozen men who vol­un­teered to fight for the Ottoman side that day. “Oth­ers were afraid,” he says.

    The Ger­mans hoped that by afford­ing the Half Moon detainees lux­u­ries, they would win their trust enough so that the men would switch alle­giances, and sign up to fight the Sultan’s holy war in the colonies. A cun­ning plan, but one that seems to have back­fired. Bin Hussein’s inter­ro­ga­tion, it’s worth not­ing, took place after he’d been tak­en pris­on­er for a sec­ond time – by the same side.

    Rogan spec­u­lates he was involved in a revolt against his new Ottoman com­man­ders, pos­si­bly show­ing the inef­fec­tive­ness of the recruit­ment scheme. “Amer­i­can records sug­gest morale among these troops was quite low – after hav­ing been rel­a­tive­ly well treat­ed by the Ger­mans, they were sent off to hot, dry, very dif­fi­cult fight­ing con­di­tions,” he says.

    READ: How Britain and France carved up the Mid­dle East

    The num­bers of vol­un­teers from the pro­pa­gan­da camps Half Moon and Wein­berg were not insignif­i­cant. As many as 3,000 recruits from the camps arrived in Bagh­dad to serve on the Mesopotami­an and Per­sian fronts. “Noth­ing to sneeze at,” Rogan says. “But they didn’t real­ly know what they were fight­ing for. It wasn’t as though they were moti­vat­ed by jihad. They were prob­a­bly promised good treat­ment and glo­ry.”

    Why weren’t the men moti­vat­ed by jihad? It’s per­haps more per­ti­nent to ask, “Why would they have been?” As Rogan points out, the con­cept was daft to begin with. “It was not a nat­ur­al thing: a tar­get­ed jihad focus­ing on three West­ern coun­tries but exclud­ing three oth­er Euro­pean coun­tries. You hate Britain and France but not Ger­many, Bul­gar­ia and Aus­tria – what is that about?”

    Rogan also thinks Oppen­heim and his enthu­si­as­tic band of ori­en­tal­ists were delud­ed. “There was this mis­con­cep­tion that Mus­lims behave in a uni­form­ly fanat­i­cal way: they pray togeth­er in mas­sive num­bers, they obvi­ous­ly all sur­ren­der their thoughts in a uni­form way, and if you turn that to your advan­tage you’ve got a pow­er­ful force to moti­vate and mobilise. It just doesn’t work that way.

    “Mus­lims are like peo­ple any­where else. Their will­ing­ness to get into some­thing as risky as war is going to be deter­mined by their inter­ests, or their fears, or the threats that they face. It’s not because some­body waves a sword or a Koran and tells them to go to war.”

    READ: ‘Ger­many start­ed the Great War, but the Left can’t bear to say so’ — Boris John­son

    The inter­ests that moti­vat­ed the hero­ics of one par­tic­u­lar­ly sin­gu­lar-mind­ed indi­vid­ual from the camp, Mir Mast, are telling. In The World’s War, writer and pre­sen­ter David Olu­so­ga nar­rates the com­pelling sto­ry of this Mus­lim PoW, with “the face of a born sur­vivor”, from a moun­tain vil­lage on the India-Afghanistan bor­der. Mast was cap­tured and tak­en to the Half Moon Camp after desert­ing the Allies at the Bat­tle of Neuve Chapelle in 1915. Olu­so­ga fol­lows his extra­or­di­nary sto­ry after he agrees to vol­un­teer on a dan­ger­ous mis­sion for the Ger­mans to Kab­ul to con­vince the Emir of Afghanistan to stop back­ing the British. As it turns out, Mast had his own moti­va­tions for the trip: it was a way back home.

    Anoth­er exam­ple of a spir­it­ed act of defi­ance emerges in one of the record­ings from the ethno­graph­ic project car­ried out at the camp in 1915 by a Ger­man aca­d­e­m­ic (2,600 record­ings of pris­on­ers were tak­en in 250 lan­guages). One Chote Singh recites into the gramo­phone his script­ed line – “the Ger­man Kaiser looks after me very well” – then laughs.

    A won­der­ful­ly com­ic nov­el writ­ten in 1917 by the Eng­lish writer Tal­bot Mundy, Hira Singh, sug­gests that even then peo­ple around the world were laugh­ing at the camps and the sim­plis­tic beliefs of the Ger­man ori­en­tal­ists and their jihad effort. Seri­alised in an Amer­i­can pulp mag­a­zine in 1917, then pub­lished as a book in Lon­don in 1918, Hira Singh tells the sto­ry of a Sikh sol­dier cap­tured by the Ger­mans in Mar­seille in the ear­ly stages of the war.

    About 80 Sikhs were housed in the Half Moon Camp, and in the sto­ry Hira and his squadron are tak­en there. Jihad pro­pa­gan­da obvi­ous­ly did not apply to the Sikhs – in the book Hira is con­stant­ly bemused that Ger­mans keep feed­ing him Mohammedan ideas – though non-Mus­lim pris­on­ers were plied with ­mate­r­i­al designed to ignite a nation­al­ist sense of injus­tice instead.

    Mundy, well trav­elled in India, Africa and the Mid­dle East, must have had a source of infor­ma­tion about what life was like in the camp. Many of his descrip­tions of the good liv­ing con­di­tions and the pro­pa­gan­da news­pa­pers tal­ly with what is now known about it. He also describes how local women and chil­dren would come and stare at them, as if they were exot­ic exhibits, through the fence – entire­ly pos­si­ble since the camp’s exis­tence was well pub­li­cised and doc­u­men­ta­tion shows that as ear­ly as 1915 PoWs from the Half Moon Camp were trans­port­ed into Berlin to play extras in films.

    Mundy’s sto­ry lam­poons the Ger­man camp won­der­ful­ly. Hira’s wry, intel­li­gent stream of con­scious­ness pro­vides an amus­ing coun­ter­point to the sim­plic­i­ty of the fawn­ing tac­tics employed at the prison. “Our sense of jus­tice was not court­ed once. They made appeal to our bel­lies, to our purs­es, to our lust, to our fear – but to our right­eous­ness not at all.”

    An exhi­bi­tion at the Brunei Gallery, in Lon­don, Empire, Faith and War: The Sikhs and World War One, shines new light on the plight of the Sikhs dur­ing the war. The exhi­bi­tion presents a trans­lat­ed ver­sion of the Half Moon Camp’s pro­pa­gan­da news­pa­per, the Hin­dostan, which con­tained sto­ries, appeals, reports, and poems all intend­ed to fuel anti-British sen­ti­ment:

    “Oh mar­tyrs, you have to help the peo­ple of India by cre­at­ing a string uni­ty among the peo­ple of dif­fer­ent reli­gions, because the ene­my is get­ting very fit by cre­at­ing hatred amongst the peo­ple through incite­ment of one reli­gion against the oth­er,” as a front page in the exhi­bi­tion reads. But accord­ing to the exhibition’s cura­tor, Par­mjit Singh, the Ger­mans’ best efforts didn’t work on the Sikhs. They remained large­ly loy­al to the British.

    The same goes for the 50 or so Irish­men who, Ger­man records indi­cate, found them­selves at the Half Moon Camp in sum­mer 1915 – much to their dis­gust. One, Pte Cor­nelius Rahilly, not­ed: “All [over] the camp the ugly sweaty smell of the East pre­vailed and some of the oth­er inmates danced them­selves often into a fren­zy. The white pro­trud­ing eye­balls of these semi-sav­ages and their fan­tas­tic per­am­bu­la­tions and knife gyra­tions hyp­no­tised one into imag­in­ing he wit­nessed some dia­bol­i­cal dis­play of the nether regions.”

    The Irish­men were also fed pro­pa­gan­da, sug­gest­ing that there was a larg­er impe­r­i­al pol­i­tics behind the Ger­mans’ efforts. But, by all accounts, the men showed them­selves unmoved by pro­pa­gan­da – and with­in four months they had left Half Moon “where their pres­ence [was] dis­turb­ing”, accord­ing to a prison authority’s memo.

    It didn’t take long for the prison com­man­ders to learn from their mis­con­cep­tions about the Irish. And although the polit­i­cal aspi­ra­tions of the camp were aban­doned in 1917 when the major­i­ty of its inhab­i­tants were qui­et­ly sent to Roma­nia to work on agri­cul­tur­al land (and Shaykh Sâlih left Ger­many to live in Switzer­land) there are, per­haps, lessons that can still be learnt from the camp’s fail­ure.

    “I think [the sto­ry is] rel­e­vant to read­ers today because peo­ple still have that view,” says Rogan. “Peo­ple still believe that there’s this capac­i­ty for Mus­lims to behave in this col­lec­tive­ly fanat­i­cal way.”

    ‘Empire, Faith and War’ is at The Brunei Gallery, Lon­don, until Sep­tem­ber 28; ‘The Fall of the Ottomans’ by Eugene Rogan will be pub­lished by Basic Civ­i­tas in Sep­tem­ber

    Posted by Vanfield | August 12, 2014, 12:52 pm

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