Allies of Jihad

The Common Strategies of Napoleon, Kaiser Wilhelm II, Mussolini and Hitler

by Norman Berdichevsky (April 2008)


For more than two centuries, major conflicts involving the European powers spilled over the Mediterranean, Bosphorus, Black Sea, Suez Canal, and Caucasus mountains to engulf the adjacent areas of North Africa and the Near and Middle East in intrigue, espionage and open conflict. From Napoleon’s entry into Egypt in 1798 until the end of World War II in 1945, the vast majority of the Muslim peoples of these regions under leaders who directed their religious and political allegiance, decisively chose sides and in each case, embraced the ideologies of authoritarianism, Fascism and Nazism.

As diverse as their political ideologies were, Napoleon, Wilhelm II, Hitler and Mussolini, at decisive moments of their careers, all posed in the role of “Protector of Islam” or called for a “jihad” by the Muslim world against their enemies.  This proved to be the case even though it meant a humiliating subservience of Muslims to European authoritarian and dictatorial leaders and even ideologies that had claimed to be leading a Christian religious crusade or preached a racist ideology in which Nordic or “Aryan” supremacy was a fundamental tenet.  


Napoleon’s Vision of a Modern Pharaoh with the Blessings of Islam

Louis XV was advised as early as 1769 to replace the French colonial efforts in the Americas with the conquest of Egypt and the French Foreign Office sent agents on a secret mission to explore the possible advantages of placing Egypt under colonial rule. The Directory appointed Bonaparte as the leader of an expedition to invade Egypt, defeat the English in the Eastern Mediterranean and explore the possibility of building a canal through the isthmus of Suez.

On May 19, 1798 the major part of the expeditionary force had assembled and was embarked at Toulon. The total invasion force numbered almost 400 vessels, over a thousand pieces of artillery, 567 vehicles and 700 horses. The French troops knew nothing of their objective and were not equipped for desert warfare.

Upon his entry to Alexandria, Napoleon set the precedent of European leaders anxious to win the support of Muslims in their conflicts with a rival European power by proclaiming “You will be told that I have come to destroy your religion; do not believe it! Reply that I have come to restore your rights, to punish the usurpers, and that more than the Mamelukes, I respect God, his Prophet and the Koran”. One of his generals, Jacques Menou, even converted to Islam to help convince the Egyptians of the authenticity of Napoleon’s message and intent.

In an extravagant move, a French naval expedition landed an army of more than 30,000 troops in Egypt to enable Napoleon’s claim to a glory equal to that of the ancient pharaohs. The Mamelukes ('white slave' in Arabic) were the descendents of ex-slaves who became a fearsome warrior caste, mostly of Georgian descent, and had ruled Egypt in the name of the distant Turkish sultan for seven centuries. In just one day, the 29-year-old Corsican ended their rule forever. His victory was awesome. More than 1,600 Mamelukes were killed while the French suffered only 18 fatalities. This demonstration of power briefly led to an acceptance of French rule and Napoleon's cynical offer of posing as The Protector of Islam.

The French occupying force and navy were badly defeated in the ensuing Battle of the Nile with Nelson’s fleet and ultimately left the country in 1801. In spite of his hollow proclamations and expressions of goodwill, he could count on no Muslim allies.


Islam’s Geography of Religion

For Islam (literally “submission”, regarded as the camp that already has submitted to the will of Allah and Muhammad’s message, the so called Dar-al-Islam), success is to be measured on the political map as monitored and divided between two hostile camps, and it is incumbent upon Muslims to subject the other camp of non-believers (the infidels in the Dar-al-Harb or camp of war), to conquest and to subdue them under Islamic sovereignty. More than a matter of personal submission to the will of Allah, subjugation (the deeper meaning of “Islam” usually confused with salaam meaning “peace”) requires dominion over territory.

Dar al-Harb is used by Muslim scholars to refer to that part of the world where Muslims are not in power and therefore not able to “practice their religion” without interference. The residents of the Dar al-Harb are called harbi as opposed to a tolerated non-Muslim subject (dhimmi) A harbi has no rights, not even the right to live. If a harbi wants to enter the territory of Dar al-Islam, he requires a safe-conduct. In an interview with the prominent Arabic language newspaper in London, Asharq-al Awsat, Sheikh Yusuf al-Qaradawi on July 19, 2003 stated… “It has been determined by Islamic law that the blood and property of people of Dar Al-Harb is not protected.”

Al-Qaradawi is a highly respected and popular theologian who appears regularly on Al-Jazeera and is the founder of IslamOnline – a popular website offering opinions and religious edicts (fatwa). He is considered to be a favorite Islamic scholar of the extremist Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt and has twice been offered to become their leader. Among most Muslims, he is considered a “moderate conservative”. Al-Qaradawi is also regarded as the most prominent spokesman for rejecting the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and democracy as inappropriate for Muslims to follow and has supported Palestinian suicide bomb attacks against Israeli civilians. He has also called for a worldwide Muslim reaction against Denmark in the wake of the Muhammad cartoons.

During the twentieth century, such religious views were translated into policies by the Ottomans in World War I, encouraged by opportunistic European leaders, by Arab nationalists and Islamic fundamentalists in World War II, in the struggle with Israel and in the large measure of support for Al-Qaeda today. The struggle for Islam requires a continual appraisal of a chess-board like map of what part of the world has been subdued and placed under Muslim rule FOREVER (no retreats or “do-overs” are allowed). In this regard, territories such as Israel, Spain, Chechnya, Kosovo or Greece, which were once submitted to Allah, cannot be allowed to return to the Camp of War.


The Ottoman Empire on the Eve of World War I

In 1914, the only focus of Muslim power in the world was the Turkish Ottoman Empire whose sultan still commanded the respect and obedience of most of the world’s Sunni Muslims whether or not they were citizens. The Turkish Sultan, Mahomet V, was the only acknowledged “Caliph” and he and his court in alliance with the “Young Turk” movement followed a pro-German line, convinced that a German victory would help reverse the backward slide of the empire and enable them to recover territory lost to the hated Russians who had connived to help liberate the Christian Slavic peoples and the Greeks from Turkish rule.

The court of the previous Ottoman Sultan, Abdul Hamid II (deposed in 1909), had welcomed and flattered Kaiser Wilhelm II on his visit to Palestine in 1898 and expressed a favorable attitude towards the construction of a German financed Berlin to Baghdad railway. German military officers were involved in the training of both the Turkish army and navy. The controlled Turkish press represented the Kaiser in the most favorable light and hinted that he was considering conversion to Islam and regarded himself as a European “Protector of Islam”.

The Hijaz Railway, begun in 1900 and linking Damascus ultimately with Mecca was a project designed to fully merge the temporal power of the Ottoman throne with the spiritual seat of the Caliphate and the holy places of Mecca and Medina in Arabia. Such a strategy would pose the greatest threat to British imperial power in Egypt and India and inevitably attract German support. It was envisioned by German strategists as the link to the East bypassing the Suez Canal and creating a German-Austro-Hungarian-Turkish alliance dominating Europe and the Middle East.

Although the British had previously tried to postpone the loss of Turkish possessions in the Balkans and limit the ambitions of the Russians and their claim to be the protector of Eastern Christians, the Railway profoundly changed their attitude. It made it clear that in a future European conflict, the Ottoman Sultan would endeavor to promote religious extremism by calling upon Sunni Muslims everywhere to join a “selective jihad” against the British, French and Russian infidels. The Germans with no Muslim subjects and Austria with only a few in Bosnia could be regarded as allies in spite of their Christian faith.

The visit by Kaiser Wilhelm II to Palestine in 1898, German technical assistance in the construction of the railway, and German military training of the Ottoman army and navy made Germany the natural focus of Turkish hopes to recover the territories lost to the Russians, Greeks, Slavs and the growing extent of British and French influence in traditional Muslim areas in what is today India and much of North and East Africa. 

The legendary “Arab Revolt” of 1916 in which Lawrence of Arabia played such a notable role was engineered by British intelligence to hinder as much as possible the Ottomans’ call for the pan-Islamic jihad that would threaten their Empire. The title of Caliph was first clamed by the Ottomans in the fifteenth century but largely confined to ceremonial use. It was later employed as a political, instead of symbolic religious title, by the Ottoman Sultan in a 1774 peace treaty with Russia that ceded vast territories including the Crimea to Czarist Russia. This was a humiliating surrender of Muslim territory but Sultan Abdulhamid I could claim a diplomatic victory of sorts that further increased the significance of his title of Caliph. The “victory” was that the Ottoman Caliph was acknowledged by the Czar as having political-religious significance outside of Turkish borders. It could be said, that in his capacity as Sultan, authority had shrunk, but as a consequence of this diplomatic triumph, the Caliph’s prestige had increased. By the 1880s, Sultan Abdulhamid II reasserted the Caliph title as a way of countering the extension of European (i.e. Christian) colonialism in Muslim lands.

His claim received considerable notoriety among the Muslims in British India, Egypt and Central Asia. By the eve of World War I, Ottoman Turkey, although weak in the international balance of power, represented the largest and most powerful independent Islamic political entity. The Sultan also enjoyed some authority beyond the borders of his shrinking empire as Caliph. In particular, the British feared the Sultan would use his authority and religious title to create unrest and disloyalty among Muslims under British rule, numbering then approximately 100 million, out of the global Muslim population of nearly 300 million.

The Sultan encouraged donations from Muslims around the world towards the construction of the Hijaz Railway. Muslims in India gave generously. Donations paid for one-third of the cost of the railway, which reached Medina in 1908, a year ahead of schedule. The completion of the railway revolutionized the “hajj” to Mecca. Pilgrims who had faced the dangers and hardships of travel overland by caravans lasting weeks could now travel in comfort from Damascus to Medina in three days!


The Young Turks


Although The “Young Turk” movement that came to power in 1908 had sought to replace the Sultan with a modern form of government and create an “Ottoman nationality” embracing Turks, Arabs, Armenians, Kurds, Druze, Assyrians, Jews and Greeks, they soon came to the realization that such a program was hopelessly unrealistic. Led by Enver Pasha and Talaat Bey, the officers in the Young Turk movement hoped the replacement of a reactionary sultan with an attractive more liberal constitutional monarchy would save the Empire.

They, like Gorbachev, had underestimated the centrifugal forces of the subject nationalities they had liberated. Instead of rallying the subject non-Muslim dhimmi peoples to identify with the state, the result of the 1908 revolution was the perceived weakness of the empire abroad that encouraged further loss of territory to the Christians in the Balkans – the independence of Bulgaria, the annexation of Bosnia-Hercegovina by the Austrians and the union of Crete with Greece.

The reaction of the Young Turks was first to seek a new identity around which they could rally the mass of the Turkish people. For a brief time, they played with the idea of pan-Turkism or “Turanism” that would unite the Muslim Turkic-speaking peoples (Tajiks, Kyrgyz, Uzbeks, Kazakhs and Azerbaijanis) of central Asia with the vast Turkish majority in Asia Minor. This concept too lacked any broad sympathy among the people and the army.

In April 1909, army units joined theological students in mass demonstrations chanting “we want Sharia” (Islamic religious law). Ironically, when Turkey committed itself to war, the Young Turks drew increasingly upon Islamic religious fervor to martial the resources of the Empire’s Muslim majority and even encouraged the genocidal slaughter of the Armenians and Greeks, traditional allies of the hated Russians and perceived as the traditional infidels.

Germany, Kaiser Wilhelm II and the Middle East

Ironically, the Kaiser had originally been favorably impressed by the Zionist settlements and Herzl’s proposals that involved a pro-German orientation. German speaking Protestant colonists (The Templars) had also established modern prosperous settlements in Palestine. The Kaiser imagined the Templars and Zionists would be a source of German cultural influence in the Middle East and the source of the energy, enterprise and the material advantages of Western civilization.

The representative of the philanthropic and cultural German-Jewish Association (Hilfsverein der deuschen juden),  in a meeting in July 1911 with the German ambassador to Constantinople  Freiherr von Wangenheim, told him on the eve of the war, that “90% of world Jewry spoke Yiddish, a German dialect, had a natural friendly inclination towards Germany, and would be invaluable allies in furthering German economic and cultural interests.” Yet these expressions of good will and a friendly disposition of some of the “Young Turk” leaders towards Zionism proved to be of little value and were shunted aside as German policy to back its Turkish allies exploited the jihad issue to mobilize Muslim support of the war against the British, French and Russians.

Shortly after the outbreak of war in July, 1914, the Ottomans joined the side of the Central Powers. Good relations with Germany were not simply an instrument of power politics. German discipline and the prominence of the military in society were much admired in Turkey as close to Muslim ideals. Encouraged by the Germans, who were convinced that Muslim unrest could turn the advantage of the British Empire's enormous size into a terrible liability, the Sultan made an electrifying announcement……His spokesman dramatically proclaimed from Constantinople. “The commander of the Faithful, the Caliph of the Muslims, summons you to the jihad!' 'Know that our state is today at war with the Governments of Russia, England and France and their allies, who are the mortal enemies of Islam,  For the Allies, this was “Jihad made in Germany.”

The Young Turks, their pro-German orientation and the Hijaz Railway set in motion three major developments that would characterize the political use of Islam in world politics during the reminder of the twentieth century. The first was the failure of many Muslims outside of Turkey to rally to the call of jihad. The second was the ultimate collapse of the Ottoman Empire and the success of Kemal Attaturk, one of the Young Turk officers who, recognizing the failures of political Islam and Turanism, proclaimed a republic and established a purely Turkish ethnic-state with no ties to Islam or the Turkic speaking peoples of Central Asia. An unintended third consequence was the ultimate rise of the Saudi dynasty in Arabia, following the Arab revolt led by King Feisal of the Hashemite dynasty in control of Mecca.The British had induced the Hashemites to lead a revolt of Bedouin tribesmen against the Turks. Unable to unite the Arabs into a Hashemite kingdom, they were ultimately swept from power in Arabia and replaced by the Saudis who extended their dominion over the holy sites of Islam. The Saudis would go on to claim the mantle of religious leadership as the natural focus of Islamic political power and inscribe their flag with the Muslim call to prayer of the faithful. 

The Turks spread the notion that the German Kaiser was a “Protector of Islam”, a title that was accepted by many Muslims who were angry at the democratic western powers and Russia, European and Christian powers that had insulted or threatened Islam by their intervention in the Muslim world. This anger included the Christian and Jewish minorities who dared to rely on these foreign powers for protection. Later, following the Kaiser’s example, Mussolini and Hitler would make appeals to the world’s Muslims as “protectors” or allies of Islam.


Mussolini’s Interest in “Mare Nostrum” and Zionism, Philo-Semitic Views and Opposition to Nazi Racism


Like the Kaiser, Mussolini was originally favorably inclined towards the Zionist movement, toyed with the idea of supporting a Jewish state, appreciated the patriotic contributions of many notable Italian Jews to their homeland and to the Fascist movement and for a decade, had a brilliant and beautiful Jewish mistress (Margherita Sarfatti) who encouraged these feelings. For more than sixteen years since Mussolini’s regime came to power, anti-Semitism was rejected by Fascist Italy. Like Kaiser Wilhelm however, Mussolini felt that considerations of power politics ultimately required favoring Muslim sensitivities to keep them as allies or acquire new ones rather than the potential benefits that Italy might derive from favoring the Jews.

The Fascist movement in Italy was not favorably disposed towards the Catholic Church and resented the opposition the Vatican had demonstrated to Italian unification.  Until the Lateran Treaty (1929) that recognized the sovereignty of the Vatican City State, relations between the Catholic Church and Mussolini’s Fascist regime were cold and relations with Nazi Germany reached a low point in 1934 that brought Mussolini into direct confrontation with Hitler over the question of Austria’s independence. 


Mussolini’s Opportunistic Role as Protector of Islam


It was however, Mussolini’s quest for a new and grand version of ancient Rome with colonial possessions in North Africa, naval supremacy in the Mediterranean (“Our Sea” – “Mare Nostrum”), the Italian desire for revenge against Abyssinia for the disastrous defeat suffered at Ethiopian hands at Adowa in 1896 that resulted in a total change of his position on a possible alliance with Zionism. In his view Italy had sacrificed much in World War I only to be denied the fruits of victory with an expanded colonial role in the Middle East and Africa. This led him to pursue an aggressive campaign that ultimately brought him into an alliance with Nazi Germany and Hitler whose ideology he had previously ridiculed. 

In March 1937, Benito Mussolini proclaimed himself as “Protector of Islam” following a state visit to the Italian colony of Libya where he opened a new military highway. The occasion was to mark the brutal suppression of resistance to Italian occupation that ended with the execution of a Senussi rebel leader, Omar al-Mukhtar. Italy simultaneously began a propaganda campaign designed to pacify Muslim sentiment around the Mediterranean and deflect anti-colonialist sentiment against the British and French presence in North Africa and the Middle East.

This policy included secret Italian support of the most extreme anti-Zionist of the Palestinian Muslim political figures, Haj Amin al-Husseini who had been installed in office by the British in 1931 even though he finished fourth in an election of Palestine’s chief religious leader (mufti) by Muslim notables. The British tried to impress the Arab population that even though they were widely blamed for the Balfour Declaration and the Mandate for Palestine as a “Jewish National Home,” they respected Muslim concerns and rights. Ironically, Italian support was provided for the same reason – exploitation of the mufti’s appeal to the most radical fundamentalist Muslim religious sentiment in the expectation that they could “outbid” the British for Arab sympathy.

Mussolini, in a typically extravagant and bizarre dramatization of his manly image, and newly established title of Protector of Islam, arranged for a ceremonial girding on of the “Sword of Islam” in Libya in 1937. At the ceremony in Tripoli, he declared “Italy will always be the friend and protector of Islam throughout the world”. Italian Foreign minister Ciano noted that Islam was totally compatible with the Fascist outlook and added that “The Islamic world, in accordance with its traditions, loves in the Duce, the wisdom of the statesmen united to the action of the warrior.” These statements dashed the hopes of Italian Jews convincing them that Fascism had taken a dramatic turn for the worse and indeed, not long afterward, the Italian leader bowed to Hitler’s will and paid the price for an alliance with Germany by instituting anti-Semitic laws.

In the Italian campaign of aggression against Abyssinia, the Catholic Church was exploited by Mussolini to lend its approval to a war characterized as one on behalf of Western civilization against African barbarism. Nevertheless, a large proportion of the Italian forces were Muslim recruits from Libya, Eritrea, Somaliland and the Muslim dominated Galla region. Arab volunteers to serve in the Italian forces against the Christian Ethiopians included a contingent from Yemen. The same policy was also followed by General Francisco Franco in the Spanish Civil War (see March 2008 issue of New English Review, “Spain in the Sahdow of Bin-Laden).

The Muslims in Northeast Africa had a long hereditary grudge against the Christian majority in the highland areas of Northern Ethiopia and the Emperor Haile Selassie (whose name in Amharic meant “The Power of the Trinity”). Haile Selassie was also referred to by the title “Negus Negast” (“King of Kings” – as the Biblical reference in Hebrew to King Solomon as “Melech haMlachim”). Abyssinia was divided tribally, linguistically and religiously and Muslims resented the new emperor and his power base in the Southern provinces of Harra and Wollo among the Amharan and Tigre peoples.

Haile Selassie’s original name was Ras Tafari Makonnen. He had come to the throne and defeated supporters of the former Emperor Li Jasu, a Christian who had converted to Islam. In spite of Italian propaganda, Haile Selassie represented an ancient Christian civilization and a ruler who aspired to modernize his country along European lines. His eloquent stand in the League of Nations that culminated in Italy’s expulsion was a great moral victory and one that made Haile Selassie into a hero of Black African nationalism yet Mussolini, like Napoleon and Wilhelm before him, and Hitler and Franco later, could not resist striking a heroic pose before the world’s Muslims to further their aggressive ambitions.


Hitler and Germany’s Endorsement of Jhad against the Jews


Klaus-Michael Mallmann and Martin Cüppers’ Halbmond und Hakenkreuz. Das “Dritte Reich”, die Araber und Palästina, (Crescent Moon and Swastika: The Third Reich, the Arabs, and Palestine) published in September, 2006 documents the Arab sympathies for Nazism, particularly in Palestine and German attempts to mobilize and encourage the Arabs with their ideology, especially the Muslim Brotherhood, and the forces around the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, Haj Amin al-Husseini, in Palestine. Nazi radio broadcasts to the Arabs between 1939 and 1945 constantly proclaimed the natural German sympathy for the Arab cause against Zionism and the Jews. German Middle East experts stressed “the natural alliance” between National Socialism and Islam. Such experts as the former German Ambassador in Cairo, Eberhard von Stohrer, reported to Hitler in 1941 that “the Fuhrer already held an outstanding position among the Arabs because of his fight against the Jews.”

Cüppers and Mallmann quote many original documents from the Nazi archives. From the late 1930s, the planning staffs dealing with the external affairs of the Reich in the Head Office of Reich Security sought to engulf the Arabian Peninsula and win control of the region‘s oil reserves. They dreamt of a pincer movement from the north via a defeated Soviet Union, and from the south via the Near East and Persia, in order to separate Great Britain from India. The close parallels in the doctrine of a triumphant Islam converting the entire world to the Muslim Camp of Peace and the slogan that so aptly characterized the Hitler regime’s aspirations – “Today Germany, Tomorrow the World!” made them close ideological allies. The mufti frequently called for a coming “jihad” against the Jews in Palestine and in his broadcasts made it abundantly clear that he shared this goal with the Nazi fûhrer who the world’s Muslims should consider their true friend.

In a telegram to the mufti on November 2, 1943, Heinrich Himmler wrote” The National Socialist Movement of greater Germany has since its inception, inscribed upon its flag, the fight against world Jewry. It has therefore followed with particular sympathy the struggle of freedom-loving Arabs, especially in Palestine against Jewish interlopers. In the recognition of this enemy and of the common fight against it lies the firm foundation of the natural alliance that exists between the National Socialist greater Germany and the freedom loving Muslims of the whole world.”  To all Muslims aware of the telegram, this meant Germany endorsed the mufti’s call to jihad.

When the British quelled an Arab revolt in Palestine in 1938-39, Al-Husseini fled to Iraq where he helped orchestrate a pro-Axis coup and pogrom against the Jews of Baghdad. Thanks to the counteroffensive of the Red Army in front of Moscow in 1941/1942, at Stalingrad in 1942/1943, and the defeat of the German Africa Corps at El Alamein, the Germans never managed to actively intervene militarily in the Middle East. Many Bosnian Muslims were nevertheless recruited by the mufti and served in a special SS division. For this, he was sentenced to death in absentia after the war by a court in Yugoslavia under Marshall Tito.

Following the successful British recovery campaign in Iraq, the mufti fled to Jerusalem and remained there until the end of the war broadcasting pro-Axis propaganda and inciting a “jihad” against the Jews using the language often cited by supporters of Al-Qaeda today –“ Kill the Jews wherever you find them. This pleases God, history and religion.” After the war, Al-Husseini took refuge in Egypt, was instrumental in helping ex-Nazi officials and Wehrmacht officers reach that county including Otto Skorzeny. His influence extended deep into the government of Gamel Abdul Nasser and in the Ba’ath regimes established in Iraq and Syria. His name is still linked with the concept of Jihad as a factor to win control of Palestine for the Muslims.


The Naive European and American Patrons of Islam


With the exception of Hitler, whose consistent anti-Jewish ideology made him a natural ally of “selective jihad” and was therefore in a win-win situation, the European leaders, ministers, officials, and politicians who at one time or another thought that their country’s objectives in war or international relations could be advanced by some sort of alliance through encouraging the world’s Muslims to rise up in a “selective jihad” against other Western Christian nations, were abysmally ignorant of the genie they had let out of the bottle for whom all the infidels were ultimately to become their target. Napoleon derived no benefit whatsoever from his Egyptian adventure and wasted valuable resources and manpower. The Kaiser and Mussolini gained little of value by their proclamations as Protectors of Islam and rejected the potential friendship and alliance with Jewish forces that could have aided their cause immeasurably.

What is the relevance of this history for today? Al-Qaeda and its supporters and a multitude of other similar groups –Islamic Jihad, Hamas, Hizbollah, etc. have taken responsibility for atrocious acts of murder and terror around the world in their campaign of global jihad. In an incisive article in the Middle East Quarterly in January 2002 by authors Daniel Pipes and Mimi Stillman, aptly entitled “The United States Government – Patron of Islam?”, documentation is made of repeated American governmental excuses that Islam is a “noble” religion, that there is NO clash of civilizations, and that a few extremists have “hijacked” Islam. The authors include every American President, Secretary of State, officials of the State Department and even former heads of the CIA for the last three administrations (i.e. both parties). Their motivation is easy to understand. They believe any criticism of the doctrine of jihad will be regarded as denigrating Islam.

The same “party line” rules in Great Britain and Western Europe where the conventional wisdom holds that there is no clash of civilizations and “jihad” is to be interpreted as some sort of spiritual struggle that every individual Muslim engages in to purify his soul. This is how jihad is interpreted by Muslim advocacy groups in the West such as The Council on American-Islamic relations (CAIR) whose goals are to “enhance understanding of Islam, promote justice and empower American Muslims.”

In an address to Congress and interview on NBC's “Dateline,” Sept. 12, 2001, President Bush declared that …”the terrorists practice a fringe form of Islamic extremism that has been rejected by Muslim scholars and the vast majority of Muslim clerics.” Apart from the Saudi government, apparently under overwhelming pressure to respond to the fact that 19 of the 21 hijackers were Saudis, condemned the attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon. Apart from this, no references were given as to who and where these “moderate Muslim clerics and scholars” are and what their standing is as recognized by Muslim institutions of learning or important positions sanctioned by governments anywhere in the Muslim world. There is certainly no such scholar or authority to match Al-Qaradawi. Since then, numerous and equally atrocious attacks in Jerusalem, Madrid, Bali, Algiers, Amman, Chechnya, Kashmir, India and Pakistan have not produced unequivocal public or highly visible condemnations of the Al-Qaeda concept of jihad by these many unnamed and unknown “moderate” clerics and scholars in any international forum. No internationally recognized Muslim scholar has condemned murderous suicidal attacks on Israeli civilians.

Pipes and Stillman correctly contend that the State Department has, in effect, become a “Patron” of Islam, yet if we are to learn anything at all from history, it is that the Islamic concept of jihad was unequivocally understood as “violent holy war” against the infidels and not subject to interpretation. It remains a political weapon that has been used quite similarly by the last Ottoman Caliph, the Taliban, the Iranian mullahs, Al-Qaeda and even rival extremist Sunni and Shi'ite clerics in Iraq today. It is still attractive to much extremist opinion in parts of the Arab world, Chechniya, the Sudan, Pakistan and even in Indonesia. Its attraction throughout the 20th century for those autocratic and dictatorial European leaders who sought to become “Protectors of Islam” and “borrow” it, was to exploit its violent and evil appeal for their own purposes.


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