Tuesday, July 13, 2010

The bond between Nazis and Islam

This Article from The Australian.

THE Islamists have silenced Western intellectuals on their anti-Semitism.

IN our present Age of the Zipped Lip, you are supposed to avoid making any of the following inconvenient observations about the history and doctrines of the Islamist movement:

You are not supposed to observe that Islamism is a modern, instead of an ancient, political tendency, which arose in a spirit of harmony with the fascists of Europe in the 1930s and 40s. You are not supposed to point out that Nazi inspirations have taken root among present-day Islamists, notably in regard to the demonic nature of Jewish conspiracies and the virtues of genocide.

And you are not supposed to mention that, by inducing a variety of journalists and intellectuals to maintain a respectful silence on these awkward matters, the Islamist preachers and ideologues have imposed on the rest of us their own categories of analysis.

Or so I have argued in my recent book, The Flight of the Intellectuals. But am I right? I glance with pleasure at some harsh reviews, convinced that here is my best confirmation.

No one disputes that the Nazis collaborated with several Islamist leaders. Amin al-Husseini, the mufti of Jerusalem, orated over Radio Berlin to the Middle East. The mufti's strongest supporter in the region was Hassan al-Banna, the founder of the Muslim Brotherhood. Al-Banna, too, spoke well of Hitler.

Tariq Ramadan, the Islamic philosopher at Oxford, is Banna's grandson, and he argues that his grandfather was an upstanding democrat, and that everything the Islamists did in the past ought to be viewed sympathetically - as logical expressions of anti-colonial geopolitics.

Reviews in Foreign Affairs, the National Interest and the New Yorker have just now spun variations on Ramadan's interpretation.

The piece in Foreign Affairs insists that, to the mufti of Jerusalem, Hitler was merely a "convenient ally", and it is "ludicrous" to imagine a deeper alliance.

Those in the National Interest and the New Yorker add that "unlikely alliances" with Nazis were common among anti-colonialists. The articles point to some of Gandhi's comrades, to a faction of the IRA, and even to a dim-witted Zionist militant in 1940, who believed for a moment that Hitler could be an ally against the British.

But these various efforts to minimise the significance of the Nazi-Islamist alliance ignore a mountain of evidence, some of it discovered last year in the State Department archives revealing links that are genuinely profound.

"Kill the Jews wherever you find them. This pleases God, history and religion," said the mufti of Jerusalem on Radio Berlin in 1944.

And the mufti's rhetoric echoes today in major Islamist manifestos such as the Hamas charter and in the popular television oratory of Sheikh Yusuf al-Qaradawi: "Oh, Allah, count their numbers, and kill them, down to the very last one."

Foreign Affairs, the National Interest and the New Yorker have expended nearly 12,000 words in criticising Flight of the Intellectuals. And yet, though the book hinges on a series of such genocidal quotations, not one of those journals has found sufficient space to reproduce even a single phrase.

Why not? It is because a few Hitlerian quotations from Islamist leaders would make everything else in those essays look ridiculous - the argument in Foreign Affairs, for instance, that Hamas merits praise as a "firewall against radicalisation". The New Yorker is the only one to reflect even briefly on anti-Semitism. But it does so by chastising Ayaan Hirsi Ali, the Somali-Dutch champion of liberal values.

In the New Yorker's estimation, Hirsi Ali's admiration of the philosopher Voltaire displays an ignorant failure on her part to recognise that, hundreds of years ago, even the greatest of liberals thought poorly of the Jews.

But this reeks of bad faith. Hirsi Ali is one of the world's most eloquent enemies of the Islamist movement. She makes a point of singling out Islamist anti-Semitism. And the anti-Semites have singled her out in return.

Six years ago, an Islamist fanatic murdered Hirsi Ali's filmmaking colleague, Theo van Gogh, and left behind a death threat, pinned with a dagger to the dead man's torso, denouncing Hirsi Ali as an agent of Jewish conspirators. And yet, the New Yorker has the gall to explain, if anyone needs a lecture on the history of anti-Semitism, it's Hirsi Ali.

Such is the temper of our moment. Some of the intellectuals are indisputably in flight - eager to sneer at outspoken liberals from Muslim backgrounds, and reluctant to speak the truth about the Islamist reality.

Paul Berman's latest book, The Flight of the Intellectuals, will be published in Australia in September by Scribe

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