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Islam & Arab Issues

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Winston Churchill defined Mein Kampf as “the new Koran of faith and war.” Consistent therewith, Haj Amin al-Husseini, the notorious former Mufti of Jerusalem, declared, “There is a definite similarity between the principles of Islam and the principles of Nazism.”

Although Hitler and Muhammad shared an enthusiasm for military adventurism and a hatred of Jews, still, their world views would seem to be diametrically opposed.

Hitler grounds his Jew-hatred in racism as well as atheism.  His Jew-hatred flows from the sewers of nineteenth-century ‘race theory.’  Its calculated blasphemy, its materialism (despite Hitler’s self-described ‘idealism’), and most obviously its idolatry of a ‘master race,’ ought to offend, and deeply offend, any serious student of the Koran.  Islam calls for the conversion of all ‘races’ to Islam, and it does much more than merely call for such conversion—it conquers for it.  Moreover, the insistent legalism of Islam sets strict limits on any would-be tyrant.  To be sure, Islam is ‘totalistic,’ as are most religions.  Islam seeks to explain and to regulate all of human life.  This suggests that Islam is ‘totalitarian.’  Various scholars—Bernard Lewis and Daniel Pipes among them—deny this.

One may indeed conclude that Islam is not ‘totalitarian’ in the modern sense, since modern totalitarianism involves the all-encompassing power of the state and the exaltation of its leader.  Hence it can be said that might does not make right for the Muslim, as it does for the Nazi, the Communist, or the Fascist.  Besides, is it not obvious that for the Muslim God rules, not Hitler or Stalin?  It may well be, however, that we are here dealing with half-truths which obscure Islam’s linkage to Nazism.

What links Islam to Nazism is the ethos of jihad.  For both Islam and Nazism war is not merely a means to an end: mere conquest.   War for both is a moral imperative: for the Nazi, to purge the world of racial impurity, for the Muslim, to purge the world of religious impurity.  Both have or require an enemy: for the Muslim the ‘infidel,’ for the Nazi the ‘Jew,’  Accordingly, both Islam and Nazism aim at purifying i.e. conquering the world, and there is no limit to the violence that may be used to achieve that aim.  The genocide perpetrated by Muslims against the Armenians preceded the genocide the Nazis perpetrated against the Jews.

The Nazis regarded the Jews as a virus infecting mankind, something that had to be eradicated.  Although Muslims reject this racism—for a Jew could convert to Islam—Islam’s contempt for non-believers has much in common with the Nazi’s contempt for non-Aryans, Jews in particular.  As in Nazism, Islam has never respected the sanctity of human life; it has always regarded infidels, Jews or Christians, as devoid of human rights—as subhuman.  Bat Ye’or has documented fourteen centuries of dhimmitude—the degradation and dehumanization of countless Jews and Christians. Dhimmitude is inherent in the ethos of jihad—the most distinctive principle of Islam.

Also inherent in the ethos of jihad, but which has no parallel in Nazism, is the will to martyrdom.  The most horrific manifestation of this jihad ethos is the homicide-suicide bomber. Islam may forbid what may be termed ‘personal’ suicide but not in the ethos of holy war.  That Arab parents can exult in their children being sacrificed as human bombs is of course mind-boggling.  This pagan-like phenomenon indicates that the sanctity of human life is not a normative Islamic doctrine.  Indeed, on page after page of the Koran¸ unbelievers are consigned to Hell—Islam’s crematoria.

If the will to martyrdom is construed in terms of sacrificing the individual for the sake of the community, then Islam converges with Nazism.  While Muslims exalt the umma, the Islamic nation, Nazis exalt the volk, the Aryan race.  Lost in both is the dignity of the individual.

In Jewish law the individual stands on a par with the community, and such is his infinite worth or dignity that he cannot rightly be sacrificed for the sake of his community.  (That Nazism regards Jews as ‘selfish’ should be understood in this light.)  The dignity of the individual has no other rational source than the Torah’s conception of man’s creation in the image of God.  Adam is an individual.  It follows, given Islam’s subordination of the individual to the collective, that Islam, like Nazism, rejects the God of the Bible!  The same God also creates diverse nations, which attests to His infinite creativity.  Both Islam and Nazism reject the existence of diverse nations.  Both would impose on mankind a stultifying uniformity.

The contrast with Judaism could hardly be more striking.  Aside from the Seven Noahide Laws of Universal Morality, Judaism insists on differentiation and individuation.  One nation should not impose order on others by erasing their salutary national differences. Diversity in unity, reflected in the twelve distinctive tribes of Israel, is a basic Torah principle.

Militant nations cannot tolerate much diversity, especially where the militancy is animated by a creed or ideology as in Islam and Nazism.  In the case of Islam, its extraordinary military success and global expansion during the first hundred years of its inception was perceived by Muslims as ‘proof’ of Islam’s validity and superiority.  Might did indeed make right, in Islamic history.  In fact, according to Islamic doctrine, the mere seizure of state power gives religious authority to its leader even if he is not a devout Muslim.

The ethos of jihad has an ethics which is quite pragmatic, as one may expect from a militaristic religion.  One might go so far as to say that Nazi militarism is jihad secularized—jihad without religious pretensions and obfuscations.  Although literary Islam and Nazism have profound differences, these are of little significance to the victims of these militant doctrines.  The one reduces human beings to dhimmis, the other to slaves.  Militarism in a religious as well as in an atheistic creed means expansionism, murder, and degradation.

In Islam, as well as in Christianity, belief in its founder is part of the creed.  The Jews have suffered the consequences of rejecting both.   Many if not most Christians have forgiven the Jews for their stubborn adherence to Judaism, a religion that does not proselytize and that seeks not external glory but internal perfection.  The Jewish rejection of Muhammad always rankled Muslims and aroused their hatred.  But with the progress of Zionism, the Balfour Declaration, and especially with the rebirth of Israel, fear began to take hold of Muslim clerics and rulers.  So long as Jews were dhimmis, Muslims did not feel threatened theologically or politically.   This is no longer the case, which is why Muslim leaders throughout the world have held conferences to confront the ‘Jewish and Zionist menace’ and have issued papers which could have been written by Nazis.

Consider, for example, a 1968 international conference of Arab theologians held at Cairo’s Al Azhar University—Islam’s most authoritative university.  The mufti of Lebanon referred to the Jews as the “dogs of humanity.”  They do not even constitute a true people or nation.  Their evilness has been transmitted throughout their history by means of their cultural inheritance.  By their behavior, the Jews have called forth the hatred and persecution of all the peoples with whom they have come into contact.  They deserve their fate.  As for the State of Israel, it is the culmination of the historical and cultural depravity of the Jews.  It must be destroyed, having been established through aggression which is its congenital and immutable nature. This must be achieved by jihad.

The participants at this conference make no distinction between Judaism and Zionism. Their virulent statements against Jews and the State of Israel point to nothing less than genocide and politicide.

For decades Muslim anti-Semitism, worldwide, has outpaced those of the neo-Nazis; “what was historically a Christian phenomenon”—largely transcended—“is now primarily a Muslim phenomenon.”  “The mounting scale and sheer extent of this vehemently anti-Semitic literature and commentary in the newspapers, journals, magazines, radio, television, and in the everyday life of the Middle East [is indescribable] …”Not only is Mein Kampf a fast-selling title in the region, but even in Egypt, which has a peace treaty with Israel, The Protocols of the Elders of Zion has reappeared on a forty-one part Egyptian television program and in recycled form in Arab print media.  And this is actually one of the least toxic of such excrescences.   Palestinian Authority TV had this to say about Jews and Judaism:  “Their Torah today is just a collection of writings in which those people wrote lies about God, His prophets and His teachings …To their prophets they attribute the greatest crimes: murder, prostitution, and drunkenness.  The Jews do not believe in God …” Meanwhile, in countless mosques Muslims are poisoned by recent Islamic sermons denigrating Jews:

“Their tongues never cease lying, [disseminating] abomination and obscenity.… The Jews preached permissiveness and corruption, as they hid behind false slogans like freedom and equality, humanism and brotherhood. They kill Muslim youth, entice the [Muslim] woman with shameful deeds, and act to lure others through her. They defile the minds of adolescents by arousing their urges. They are envious of the Muslim woman who conceals herself and protects her honor; for this reason, they preach to her to expose herself and throw off her values. Their goal is to destroy the Muslim family, to shatter religious and social ties and foundations. They are cowards in battle. They flee from death and fear fighting. They love life.”

“Read history and you will understand that the Jews of yesterday are the evil forefathers of the even more evil Jews of today: infidels, falsifiers of words, calf worshippers, prophet murderers, deniers of prophecies. The scum of the human race, accursed by Allah, who turned them into apes and pigs. These are the Jews—an ongoing continuum of deceit, obstinacy, licentiousness, evil, and corruption.”

“The Jews are miserly, and enslaved by money.… Most of the world’s wars, particularly the great modern wars, were planned and started by the Jews so as to disseminate corruption in the land, and to achieve their goals on the ruins of the human race.”

“The Jews are defiled creatures and satanic scum…. The Jews are the cause of the misery of the human race …. The Jews are our enemies and hatred of them is in our hearts. Jihad against them is our worship.”

Der Sturmer is tame compared to the anti-Semitic cartoons of the Arab world. Such is their hatred and loathing that Arabs depicts Jews as snakes, dogs, spiders, rats, and locusts.

A chilling example of what this zoomorphism signifies may be gleaned from the Syrian celebration of the tenth anniversary of the Yom Kippur War.  In that ceremony, “Syrian militia trainees [male and female] put on a show for Syrian president Hafez Assad.  Martial music reached a crescendo as Syrian teenage girls suddenly bit into live snakes [some four or five feet long], repeatedly tearing off flesh and spitting it out as blood ran down their chins.  As Assad applauded, the girls then attached the snakes to sticks and grilled them over fire, eating them triumphantly.  Others [militiamen] then proceeded to strangle puppies and drink their blood.”

Bearing also in mind that the Syrians exterminated some 18,000 Sunni residents of the city of Hama in 1982 with cyanide—to speak of Arab Nazis is not to succumb to hyperbole.

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Some scholars may contend that what has here been imputed to Islam should in truth be imputed to “Islamism.” They allege that Islamism, as distinct from Islam, twists Koranic teachings to un-Koranic uses.  The candid scholar will admit that the Koran lends itself to such twists, and much more clearly so viewed from the Sharia, Islamic law.  Robert Westrich lists Koranic verses condemning a variety of vices imputed to certain Jews, including falsehood, distortion, cowardice, greed, corruption of Scripture. But the fact that the Koran condemns these vices does not preclude those influenced by the Koran from attributing such vices to the Jews—the more readily so given the Koran’s unrelenting degradation of non-believers.  This degradation was canonized by the Umariyah—the legal code of the seventh-century Caliph Umar—which established dhimmitude.  That dhimmitude was also construed as an act of charity or patronage hardly minimizes its dehumanization of Jews and Christians under Muslim rule.  Indeed, as Bat Ye’or has shown, the condition of the dhimmi was in certain respects inferior to that of a slave.

Still, while admitting that Jew-hatred is inherent in Islam, why has it metamorphosed into the Nazi-like anti-Semitic race-baiting that now inundates the Muslim world?

A historical account might begin with the turn of the last century.  “[I]t was not until around 1900, with the growing influence of Europeans in the Middle East, and with the active dissemination of anti-Semitism by European colonists, that extreme anti-Semitism”—as a racial doctrine—“began to spread both among Arab Christians and among Muslims.” The English themselves installed the notorious anti-Semite, Hajj Amin al-Husseini, as the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem. Much of the Mufti’s early material derived from The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, a document that focuses not on racial categories but on the charge that Jews are Satanists associated with democracy, capitalism, and socialism.

For the true racist anti-Semitism we must look at the inroads Nazis made in the Middle East before and during the Second World War, when they exploited the sentiments of Arab populations eager to throw off British and French imperialism.  This story is well known, as is the collaboration of the Mufti of Jerusalem in deepening those inroads.  Sayyid Qutb, founder of the Muslim Brotherhood, and his secularist enemy, Egyptian President Nasser, both continued anti-Semitic propaganda after the war, combining the Protocols’ ‘Satanism’ charge with ‘race theory.’ In one of those spectacular reversals seen only in the nightmare land of propaganda, where the principle of non-contradiction may be suspended so long as the purpose is sufficiently malicious, some Arabs began to charge Israel with Nazi-like racism, as the first chairman of the Palestine Liberation Organization, Ahmad Shukeiry, was wont to do.  And to bring things full circle, the current PLO chief, Yasser Arafat, has referred to the Grand Mufti as “our hero,” claiming to have been “one of his troops” in the 1948 war.

But the mere introduction of an ideology does not explain its currency.  Only its political utility does.  The political utility of Nazi race propaganda to Arabs in the Middle East in the 1930s and 1940s served as a foil against the capitalist and democratic regimes that dominated the region.  And although those regimes have receded, the commercial regimes of Israel and the United States, demonized as the smaller and greater Satins, respectively, have taken their place as useful targets for Muslim political elites in the region.  It is one thing to cite religio-cultural and ideological reasons for any prevalent mindset in a given part of the world.  Ideas do matter, and they do have consequences. But those consequences will be slight so long as they serve no political regime, real or intended.  It is the political regime—the institutional structure and the persons who frame and use that structure—that influences, if it does not wholly determine,  the character of the intellectual life, the moral atmosphere, of any human society.

Barry Rubin has correctly observed that “The Middle East is the only region in the world where the modern type of society most influenced by the West has not yet been accepted.”  The modern type of society, as Alexis de Tocqueville saw in the 1830s, is democracy.  By democracy Tocqueville did not mean simply a government characterized by equal rights, personal and civil liberty, the rule of law.  Democratic society might have none of those things.  Tocqueville understood modern democracy to mean social egalitarianism, seen primarily in the decline of the titled aristocracies throughout Europe, and, eventually, throughout the world.  Democracy was first of all a social phenomenon, the rise of the middle class, and not for some Marxian reason of ‘historical inevitability,’ but because human nature itself was emerging as men sought to enlist more and more of their fellows in ambitious projects to conquer physical nature. If you are interested in reading something about Oslo Peace, you can follow this link.

The political implications of this social phenomenon were two: modern, egalitarian societies might go the way of the United States, the way of representative government or commercial republicanism; alternatively, these societies might go the way of Russia, the despotism of the rule of one man, who enforces equal subordination or dhimmitude upon all, except his small circle of courtiers.

Tocqueville writes: The American struggles against the obstacles that nature opposes to him; the Russian grapples with men.  The one combats the wilderness and barbarism, the other, civilization vested with all its arms: thus the conquests of the American are made with the plowshare of the laborer, those of Russian, with the sword of the soldier.

To attain his goal, the first relies on personal interest and allows the force and the reason of individuals to act, without directing them.  The second in a way concentrates all the power of society in one man.   The one has freedom for his principal means of action; the other servitude.

Their point of departure is different, their ways are diverse; nonetheless, each of them seems called by a secret design of Providence to hold the destinies of half the world in its hands one day.

Tocqueville’s prediction of the bipolar world of the Cold War astonishes his new readers to this day.  But the prediction follows logically from his insight into the democratic character of modern society.  The United States and Russia were in fact the two most conspicuous examples of the two roads modernity could take.  This was obscured for a long time by the rise of Germany, but Germany represents exactly the same thing.  Where, except in a society that has failed to manage the transition from the old aristocratic order to the new—where, except in an egalitarian society could a ranting guttersnipe like Hitler cunningly boost himself not only as the champion of lost aristocratic glory, but also of the long-suffering workers and soldiers?  Modernity, with its social egalitarianism and its technologically-fueled drive to master nature, puts enormous power in the hands of the masses and those who rule, and are ruled by, the masses.  It makes a very great difference which political regime wins the struggle between ‘America’ and ‘Russia.’

Turning to the Middle East, if distinctions are to be made between Islam and Islamism, two are in order.  First and foremost, Islamism is a rejection of Arab nationalism and, in this respect, a return to classical Islam.  However, Islamists have been influenced by modernism, which makes the return to classical Islam impossible.  Second, Islamism has adopted the anti-Semitic racism of Nazism.

It is easy to see exactly where Israel stands with respect both to Arab nationalism and Islamism.  Arab nationalism was always an instrument of state-builders, just as nationalism had been in Europe.  It opposes the imperial state (except when a given nation-state decides to take on an empire), but loyally serves whatever state the state-builders envision.  What were Nasser, yesterday, and Saddam Hussein, today, if not nationalism-mongering state-builders (with vain imperial ambitions)?  And what are the Islamists, but Muslims who seek to seize control of the apparatus of the modern state, which they nonetheless reject as fragmenting the umma?

To Islamists, the Oslo ‘peace process’ seemed profoundly threatening.  Such a peace could result in one of two outcomes, equally disgusting.   The peace might be part of a ‘salami-tactic,’ wherein Arab secular nation-states set Israel up for the kill.  This would only enhance the authority of such secularists.  Alternatively, if the peace process resulted in real peace, Israel would survive and thrive, its commercial republicanism infecting Muslim souls with the insidious temptations of prosperity and tolerance.  (Turkish politics stands as a fearful object-lesson, here; the Islamist party split, as ideologues always do in a commercial-republican atmosphere.)

Commercial republicanism would spell death to Islamism, and must be stopped.  Symbolically and physically, Israel, for all its socialist trimmings remains the sole commercial republic in the Middle East. After the repeated failures of the nationalist states to eradicate Israel, and especially after Israel acquired submarine-launched nuclear missiles, those states, and also their Islamist enemies, needed a new strategy.  Terrorism was an obvious choice, whether by proxy (in the case of the Arab states) or directly (as with the Islamists, who have controlled only one state, Iran, for an extended period).  Increasingly, terrorist organizations have operated independently of states, with funding from individuals, fronts, legitimate and illegitimate businesses, sympathetic bankers, and charities.  Another technique of conquest is immigration, a technique of traditional Islam as well.  Europe has been a major target, and the political effects of that targeting have been seen in the reluctance of Europe to intervene forcefully in the region.  In the United States, Daniel Pipes reports, every leading Islamic group has links with Islamist terrorist groups, as do eighty percent of the mosques; half-a-dozen terrorist acts in New York City in the 1990s arose out of such links, as of course did the attacks of September 11.  Even the racist demi-Islamist Nation of Islam, under its demagogic leader Louis Farrakhan, has introduced the inane charge that Jews, not Muslims, ran the African slave trade.

The core institution transformed by this strategy was the Islamic madrasa.  “Westernized and usually affluent Muslims lack an interest in religious matters, but religious scholars, marginalized by modernization, seek to assert their own relevance by insisting on orthodoxy.” The madrasas reach out to the most democratic of the democrats: the impoverished Muslim masses.  The Shi`ite Muslims of Iran and the Sunni Muslims of Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, and elsewhere attempted to outbid one another in funding madrasas run by Islamist mullahs. These institutions are ideological breeding-grounds for terrorism.

Yossef Bodansky is right: “Since there has never been any democratization in any Arab country, and since the likelihood of diverting resources from corruption and military build-up toward betterment of the average citizen was virtually nil, it became imperative for Arab governments to come up with Satanic enemies of the State in order to legitimate the current state of affairs.” The idea that Christians and Jews are fellow “People of the Book”—even if decidedly inferior fellows—has given way to a war to subordinate them as dhimmis (this is consistent with traditional Islam).  Alternatively, they may simply be exterminated by any means, including homicide-suicide, as racial parasites (this is Nazism-cum-Islamism). Find out something more about Judaism politics.

Bodansky is again right in identifying Islamism as a form of populism—with all the egalitarian and racialist motifs of populism.  However, Bodansky’s insights must be qualified, in a way we suspect he would accept, by saying that this populism, this modern egalitarianism, is of course in no way a form of political democracy.  It is rather what Barry Rubin calls “populist dictatorship,” identical (although neither Rubin nor Bodansky sees this) to what Tocqueville calls “democratic despotism.”Tocqueville saw that such despotism would be nationalistic, patronage-based, and fully compatible with bureaucratization.  Left alone, it is self-perpetuating, because the despot ruling a leveled, democratized society need only satisfy a small, hand-picked clique of military officers and police.  In the modern world, there is no more independent aristocratic class to stand up to such despots.

As propaganda, anti-Semitism perfectly fits the social egalitarianism of the modern world.  Tocqueville describes the propensity of democratized peoples for what he calls “general ideas.”  The human mind requires general ideas or abstractions in order to function; the mind’s very limitations require it to enclose “a very great number of analogous objects under the same form so as to think about them more conveniently.”   If human beings attempted to understand every tree, every cat, every house, as ‘a thing in itself,’ it would sink like a stone in an ocean of details.  Nonetheless, we all know that general ideas must be disciplined by attention to details.  Mohandas Gandhi and Josef Stalin both correspond to the general idea, ‘man,’ but anyone who left it at that would, if he found himself in the wrong time and place, make some serious, even life-threatening, errors of judgment!   Tocqueville observes that democratic men and women have a weakness for general ideas.  Because they live in societies in which social differentiation is less clear, less stable, than in aristocratic times, they tend to lump things together.  Because democratic societies require them to work, to be eternally busy, they will fall back on general ideas about anything that does not pertain immediately to their own business.

In such a moral and intellectual climate, anti-Semitism easily gains a foothold.  For what is anti-Semitism, if not the most general of general ideas, a perfect refuge for harried, inattentive minds—especially minds already predisposed by age-old prejudices?  If, as a non-Jew, one knows very few Jewish people, regards them as alien to one’s own beliefs, and is encouraged by political demagogues, why would one not accept sweeping racial stereotypes, fantasies of worldwide conspiracy—the whole anti-Semitic line?

This means two things.  First, the only way to get rid of modern anti-Semitism, or for that matter traditionalist anti-Judaism, in the Muslim world of today is to change the political regimes that now rule that world, and to prevent the Islamist would-be regime founders from replacing the existing populist despotisms.  Second, the existing regimes in the Islamic world are highly unlikely to change (except for the worse) by means of internal forces—‘inside-out.’  Democratic despotism can be quite stable, making victory out of failure.  Only a comprehensive geopolitical strategy will transform those regimes, ‘outside-in.’ For more information feel free to contact foundation1.org.