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August 3, 2010 Special Dispatch No. 3139

Saudi Columnist Condemns Sympathy for Hitler in the Arab World

August 3, 2010
Saudi Arabia | Special Dispatch No. 3139

In an article in the Saudi daily Al-Watan, liberal columnist Iman Al-Quwaifli criticized the phenomenon of sympathy for Adolf Hitler and for Nazism in the Arab world. She pointed out that sympathy for Hitler takes two forms: popular admiration for him as a strong leader who was "more powerful than the Jews," and sympathy cloaked in intellectual terms, such as the pseudo-scientific argument that truth is a fluid concept and history is written by the victors. She wrote that the latter kind of argument is a travesty of true scientific thinking, and that sympathy for Hitler contravenes Islamic and Arab values.

An example of admiration for Hitler in today's Arab world can be seen in a talk show recently aired on the Egyptian channel Al-Nas, where Egyptian cleric Hussam Fawzi Jabar justified Hitler's actions against the Jews.[1]

Following are excerpts from Al-Quwaifli's article:[2]

"Those Who Wave the Slogan 'History Is Written by the Victors' Do Not Bother to Find Out the Truth about Hitler"

"The Arabs' enthusiasm for Hitler during World War II was understandable. In that period, they were [living] under British or French occupation, or, in the better case, under mandatory rule, and it seemed like a victory by Hitler and the Axis was the only way to get rid of the British and French. Slogans like 'Allah hai, Allah hai, Hajj Muhammad Hitler jai' ['Allah lives, Allah lives, Hajj Muhammad Hitler is coming']... presented Hitler as a Muslim. Though applying the name 'Hajj Muhammad' to Hitler is ludicrous, the Arabs' aspirations [at the time] were understandable, especially assuming that they were ignorant of the Nazi philosophy and its implications. But what is not understandable, and must not be accepted, is Arab sympathy for Hitler that persists to this very day, based on various justifications.

"Contemporary sympathy for Hitler is of two kinds: First, there is popular sympathy, [fueled by the Arabs'] present hardships, [which cause them to be] impressed [by the fact] that there used to be someone more powerful than the Jews. This sympathy is manifest in support for dictators like Hitler, Stalin, and Mao, who are perceived as models of achievement, constructivism and discipline imposed at all costs.

"The other kind of sympathy, which is more significant, involves exonerating Nazism in the guise of a cultured, scientific [debate]. [The proponents of this stance] take a critical approach to knowledge and history, arguing that 'history is written by the victors,' and questioning Hitler's image as an icon [of evil]. This pseudo-scientific approach is weak and thin, and has nothing to do with [real] scientific [thinking]. Those who wave the slogan 'history is written by the victors' do not bother to find out the truth about Hitler by reading histories – neither those written by the victors nor those written by critical thinkers who do not belong to the imperialistic West that won [WWII]."

To support her view, Al-Quwaifli presented three thinkers – Edward Sa'id, Tzvetan Todorov, and Eric Hobsbawm – who do not belong to the Western mainstream, but nevertheless acknowledge the Holocaust and accuse Hitler of genocide. She also responded to the claim Hitler hated Jews but liked and even admired the Arabs and Islam, saying: "There are strange and fantastic tales that associate Hitler with Arabs and even with Islam. [For instance, it is claimed] that he did not smoke or drink alcohol, and that he used to invite Muslim scholars in order to learn from them about the Companions of the Prophet. Some have even called him a modern najashi.[3] This [claim] does not hold water if you examine the basic principles of Nazism. [Moreover, Egyptian professor] 'Abd Al-Wahhab Al-Masri, in his book on secularism and in his encyclopedia of Judaism, regards Nazism as the pinnacle of Western materialism, whose ultimate authority is science and whose only goal is material gain. This cruel materialistic model is not compatible with the European religions, and certainly not with Islam and Arabism."

"The Glorification of Nazism and the Rejection of the 'Victors' History' Leads to the Disregard of Reality and to an Ideology of Hostility towards the West"

"Finally, there are also histories that were not written by the victors, [such as] the memoirs of Hajj Muhammad Amin Al-Husseini – a real hajj, [who was] mufti of Jerusalem. Forced to flee the British, who were the enemies of the Axis, he hid in Berlin during World War II. There are several photos of him in the company of Hitler and Himmler, and supporters of Nazism like to present them [as evidence of the pro-Arab orientation of these Nazi leaders]. However, Husseini himself wrote in his memoirs that Hitler never purported to like Arabs, and that nothing concerned him except for Germany's interests. In fact, Husseini doubted the sincerity of Hitler's promises to the Arabs, and expressed perplexity at the contradiction between these promises and the positions of the Axis countries. For example, Mussolini welcomed Husseini warmly and promised him to support the independence of the Arab countries, even while Italy was conquering Libya!

"What benefit can be gained from sympathy for Hitler? There are Israeli studies dedicated to proving the link between Nazism and Islam, [which evoke] the character of Hajj Amin Al-Husseini and [the fact that there were] Muslims who joined the German army. Any [fact that can be presented as] evidence for this link makes them happy. The problem is that focusing on Hitler as an individual slants one's perception [of the Nazi era], turning the [Nazi] dictatorship and tyranny into a secondary issue that can be tolerated on the grounds that this dictator hated the Jews and liked the Muslims, just as all the Arab dictators [today claim to] hate the Jews and like the Muslims [in order to justify their rule].

"Those who promote [the approach that] sympathizes with Hitler feel a deep connection to [their] Arab and Islamic identity, with all its traditional aspects. Therefore, they reject [the notion of] subjecting Islamic knowledge to criticism... This undermines their argument that 'history is written by the victors,' [because] Islamic history was [also] written by the victors, yet [these people] defensively reject any criticism against the Arab [accounts of] history. The glorification of Nazism and the rejection of the 'victors' history' leads to the disregard of reality and to an ideology of hostility towards the West, its history, and its ethos. Just out of spite, [the proponents of this view] turn the devils [of Western history] into angels, creating artificial conflicts.

"Sympathy for Hitler turns history in our minds into an imaginary farce in which characters wear masks that contradict the historical truth, and in which good figures wear masks of evil... Historical knowledge thus loses its rational character and becomes fluid, without any center or [sense of] solid truth. In this imaginary, fluid, topsy-turvy world, any historical truth can be denied, and any imaginary [fact] can be proven – just as a person in a pipe-dream can create any world he wants, as his fancy takes him, and just as the dervishes do when they whirl around, crying 'Allah hai, Allah hai, Hajj Muhammad Hitler jai.'"


Endnotes:


[1] For excerpts from the show, see MEMRI TV Clip No. 2556, http://www.memri.org/legacy/clip/2556.

[2] Al-Watan (Saudi Arabia), July 8, 2010.

[3] This is a reference to Ashama ibn Abjar, who, according to Muslim tradition, was najashi (emperor) of Ethiopia during Muhammad's time, and gave shelter to Muslims who fled from persecution in Mecca. The term najashi is applied to non-Muslim leaders who are sympathetic to Islam and the Muslims.

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