At the weekend, I read an absorbing four-page interview in French newsweekly Marianne with author and documentary maker, Michaël Prazan.
Prazan’s books and films have explored terrorism in Japan, China and Nazi Germany.
Prazan’s latest book is Frères musulmans, enquête sur la dernière idéologie totalitaire (Muslim Brotherhood: investigating the latest totalitarian ideology). What follows in the next few posts of mine are excerpts from or references to Marianne‘s interview (‘Les Freres musulmans vivent dans le complot’ ['The Muslim Brotherhood lives in conspiracy'], no. 875, 25-30 January 2014, pp. 72-75).
Prazan told Marianne that the Muslim Brotherhood’s presence in Europe is significant and explained how this came to be (p. 77). Emphases mine below:
It started in the 1950s with the creation of the Munich Mosque, partly because of former Nazis who had converted to Islam. And, at that time, the Americans sought the Brotherhood’s help in the war against Communism: they sent Said Ramadan, Tariq’s father, to direct the mosque and build their network in the West. They’re everywhere, in England, Belgium, France, notably in the Union of Islamic Organisations of France (UOIF), which, among other things, is responsible for training imams.
He also said:
The movement’s organisation, its structure, is modelled on those of fascist and Nazi movements. As for their paramilitary arm, it was directly financed by the Nazi Party, which today’s Brotherhood would no doubt ignore, but it’s the truth.
Said Ramadan, incidentally, married the daughter of Hassan al-Banna, who founded the Muslim Brotherhood in 1928.
A former teacher in Egypt, al-Banna wanted to (p. 72):
combat the grip of the secular West and the blind imitation of the European model.
The Brotherhood came about in reaction to Saudi Arabia’s courting of Western interests in its oil reserves in the 1920s. In 1902, Ibn Saud, a tribal leader, captured Riyadh and declared himself regional leader. He installed Wahhabism — devised the 18th century — as the religious practice. Twenty years later, as the Sauds did business with American and European companies, they became immensely rich. This angered the stricter Wahhabites. They mounted a rebellion, which was quashed in 1927. The Wahhabites involved took refuge in Egypt. This is why and how the Muslim Brotherhood emanated from Egypt.
In 1945, al-Banna’s son-in-law Ramadan created an armed branch of the movement in Palestine in order to fight against the Zionist movement. In 1954, he also split with former Brother — and, by then, Egyptian president — Gamal Abdul Nasser. Although the Brotherhood — along with Young Egypt (their version of the Nazi Party) — put Nasser in office in 1952, Nasser decided to modernise Egypt. Not surprisingly, the Brotherhood objected. Nasser banned the Brotherhood from Egypt in 1954.
The site Tell the Children the Truth has a page on the Muslim Brotherhood and their links with the Third Reich. That page provides much more history on the group. In short, as their perceived enemies were Jews and Westerners, they found Hitler’s plan to cleanse Germany of non-Aryans appealing and decided to adopt the same methods. It is interesting that Nasser was the first leader of the aforementioned Young Egypt in 1933. The party slogan was lifted from the Nazis:
One Folk, One Party, One Leader.
Syria also had a similar party — the Syrian Social Nationalist Party — which had a flag resembling that of the Nazi Party.
Meanwhile, in Palestine, Amin Al-Husseini, had been the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem since 1921. He was not elected by local Muslims to this position — in their poll, he arrived in fourth place. Curiously, it was the British who appointed him Grand Mufti.
Jerusalem’s Muslims rejected Al-Husseini because he was ill-educated and violent. Al-Husseini turned out to be a tyrant in religious affairs.
Al-Husseini, born in Jerusalem, grew up when that city was under Ottoman rule. He went on to participate in the Armenian Genocide. Once he returned home in 1917, he proposed that the genocide was something which should be widespread in Palestine in order to rid the region of Jews and Christians. By 1920 — under British rule — he had organised riots between Muslims and Jews, which angered the local imams, who vehemently opposed him and his ideas.
In 1922, Al-Husseini had Jerusalem’s Dome of the Rock goldplated. This was the start of the city becoming an important place in the Muslim world.
In 1928, he was one of the earliest and most powerful members of the Muslim Brotherhood.
In 1931, he founded the World Islamic Congress and preached Islamic unity.
In 1936, François Genoud — the Swiss Banker of the Third Reich — went to Palestine to meet with the Grand Mufti. Their friendship would last through the 1960s.
That same year, Al-Husseini organised the bloody Palestine riots, a ‘systematic extermination’ modelled on Hitler’s ideas. Not only were Christians and Jews murdered but also Muslims who disagreed with his objectives of a Islam-only land.
In 1937, he met with the German Consul in Jerusalem. Also there were high-ranking German officers. They discussed ‘the Jewish question’. Nazi Germany began funding Al-Husseini afterward.
In 1941, the Grand Mufti went to Rome to meet with Mussolini, who also pledged his help in order to rid Palestine of Jews. It’s worth noting that — from Rome — Al-Husseini declared fatwa-jihad against Great Britain, the nation which had appointed him Grand Mufti.
You can read more of that page to find out what happened as he and the Brotherhood became more involved in supporting Germany during the Second World War, including the Hanzar Division of Nazi Muslim soldiers in Bosnia.
Of Islam, Heinrich Himmler said:
[I] have nothing against Islam because it educates the men in this division for me and promises them heaven if they fight and are killed in action. A very practical and attractive religion for soldiers.” [xxxiv]
Himmler developed a close alliance with Al-Husseini. He went on to finance and establish the Islamic Institute — Islamische Zentralinstitut — in Dresden:
The purpose was to create a generation of Islamic leaders that would continue to use Islam as a carrier for Nazi ideology into the 21st century. [xxxv]
After the war when Israel became a state in 1948, Al-Husseini declared a holy jihad against the new nation. In 2002, Yasser Arafat told Al-Quds that he fought with Al-Husseini against Israel at that time.
Incidentally, Al-Husseini co-founded the Arab League, which has supported subsequent conflicts with Israel, including both Intifadas.
The next post will look more at Said Ramadan, al-Banna’s son-in-law. Today, Ramadan’s son, Tariq, carries on with controversial views concerning Sharia. Twelve years ago, French newspapers Le Monde and Le Figaro refused to print them in detail. The French government then told Ramadan to leave the country; his values were incompatible with those of the Republic. He settled in Geneva, his birthplace and the city where his family has had longstanding ties. In 2004, the United States refused him entry to take up a visiting professorship at the University of Notre Dame. Other American speaking and teaching engagements were also scuppered when the Bush administration continued to refuse him a visa.
His views, as voiced to Muslim audiences, are extreme; meanwhile, to Western academic audiences, he presents himself as a reasoned intellectual.
A recent illustration of this is when Erasmus University and the City of Rotterdam dismissed Ramadan from his respective positions as professor and ‘integration adviser’ in August 2009. They declared his television show in Iran to be ‘irreconcilable’ with his work in the Netherlands.
One month later, Oxford University appointed Ramadan as Chair in Contemporary Islamic Studies, where he works today.