The West welcomed political change in the Middle East, the so-called “Arab Spring,” from the outset. After decades of rule by dictatorship, western leaders, many with the support of their citizens, hoped to usher in a new era of democracy. However, from Libya to Egypt to Syria, it was soon evident that the same forces who opposed the strongmen nationalists were responsible for atrocities of their own design. Governments that rose to power in Egypt and Libya systematically oppressed their citizens, creating environments of chaos and anarchy. The result was predictable enough: counterrevolution.
In Egypt, counterrevolution meant the removal of Muslim Brotherhood President Mohammed Morsi by popular referendum. In Libya, a new civil war rages between Islamist gangs (cartels) and forces of a nationalist militia. In Syria, meanwhile, Bashar Assad continues to hold the upper hand against the rebels, despite increased aid from Barack Obama and the United States.
That the Arab Spring, which realized the coming to power of Islamic fundamentalists, unleashed a wave of violence and repression should not have come as a surprise. There were good reasons, from the very beginning, to suspect that the outcome of these revolutions would be political calamity. To understand the unique factors that defined the Arab Spring, it is important to first comprehend which Gulf state was primarily responsible for its realization: Qatar.
Recently Qatar, a tiny peninsular state with the world’s highest per capita GDP, has been in the news for negotiating the release of five (ten, really) Taliban commanders in exchange for Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl; the Taliban five now reside in Qatar, allegedly under the watchful eye of the Qataris. But long before the Bergdahl incident, Qatar was known as the only country who openly welcomed the Muslim Brotherhood, a secretive radical group who has spawned countless other radical Islamist groups since its founding in 1928.
A crucial dimension of the Muslim Brotherhood (aka, Al Ikhwan al-Mooslimoon, aka Ikhwan) that helps to explain their ideology, strategy, and tactics is the interaction between the organization in its formative years and the Nazi Party of Germany. Founded in 1920, the Nazi Party and the Muslim Brotherhood were contemporaries. The rest of this article will explore Islam’s interplay with the politics of Germany from late Ottoman Empire through the Third Reich, and draw parallels between the Nazi Party and the Muslim Brotherhood, which was founded as a reaction to the collapse of the Ottoman Empire. It will conclude by remarking on how a dedication to violence has transformed the organization into something that more accurately resembles not a fundamentalist group, but a crime syndicate that hides behind religious ideology and employs terrorism for profit.
A Kaiser and a Sultan Walk Into a Bar
The decades preceding World War One were characterized by European military scuffles arising from imperialism and its consequent competitions. Germany, a landlocked country, had come into the game late. Whereas other European powers, such as England, France, Italy, and Belgium, had snapped up colonies around the world, Germany had relatively few satellites from which to extract riches. In order to compensate for its late entry, Kaiser Wilhelm II forged an alliance with Hamid II, the Sultan-Caliph of the Ottoman Empire. What came of this alliance between the Germans and the Muslims profoundly affects the world up to the present time.
Conceived by the German spy (and Orientalist/archaeologist) Max von Oppenheim as a threat against Anglo power in the Middle East and Asia, war by revolution was the term given to the German strategy of inciting jihad against (non-German) colonialist powers. This is how war by revolution worked: the Germans convinced the Ottoman Sultan to encourage Muslims under non-Islamic rule to view the colonial struggle through the lens of religion. The united Muslim population in the colonized land was then to unite under the banner of Islam, eschewing any and all local political differences among ethnicities. The united Muslim front would then be strong enough to overthrow the imperialist power. For example, the Muslims in India under the rule of the British Raj were ginned enough up to frighten the local British rulers, although ultimately nothing came of it.
To accomplish this convincingly, Kaiser Wilhelm II went to great personal lengths to embrace Islam, declaring in Damascus “Let me assure His Majesty the Sultan and the three hundred millions of Moslems who, in whatever corner of the globe they may live, revere in him their Khalif, that the German Emperor will ever be their friend.” It has even been rumored that the Kaiser, titular head of the Lutheran Church, may have converted to Islam.
War by revolution was a pan-Islamic, anti-Imperialist movement based on the idea that all Islamic peoples are one against the Christian West. To call this a kind of proto-al Qaeda would not be a stretch, for global jihad is precisely what the terrorist network has as its goal. Moreover, the collaboration between the Kaiser, the German military and the Ottoman Empire established communications among Germany and Muslims that would continue through World War II.
The Armenian Genocide
The word genocide originates from the Turkish slaughter of 1.5 million Christians, mostly Armenians, during the First World War. In 1915, the government of Turkey decided to deal with the Orthodox Armenians living within the boundaries of the Empire. Jealous of the relative prosperity of the Armenians, it passed tehcir law, which authorized the “displacement” of Armenians – for the purpose of extermination. This was to prefigure the laws passed by Nazi Germany to deal with the Jews in the Third Reich. The Turks pioneered the ways of modern genocide, forcing the Christians to dig their own graves, shooting, drowning, burning, and even gassing them to death.
On the scene at the time of the genocide, and a willing and enthusiastic participant, was the Palestinian Amin al-Husseini. This odious historical character joined the Ottoman Army in 1914, and was assigned to the 47th Brigade, stationed near the Greek Orthodox city of Smyrna. Apparently Amin al-Husseini approved of the genocide, for this same man would be among the first to implore Adolf Hitler to initiate the Final Solution in 1941.
Husseini: The Interwar Years and World War II
Amin al-Husseini, through a convoluted series of events, was made Mufti of Jerusalem in 1921 by the British Zionist Ernest Richmond (with whom he is reported to have had a gay love affair). Immediately, Husseini began inciting violence against the Jews of Palestine. He was responsible for anti-Semitic riots in 1929, and anti-British and Jewish riots from 1936-39. A prolific murder, he ordered the killing of dozens of prominent Muslims who opposed his violent ways, and his gang was known to have murdered entire extended Muslim families who refused to pay him tribute. Ironically, Amin al-Husseini’s actions were far more likely to result in the deaths of Palestinian Muslims than Jews or Brits.
During World War II, al-Husseini was the most important Islamic functionary of the Third Reich. He was resident in Berlin for several years, as a special guest of Adolf Hitler. He had a warm friendship with both Heinrich Himmler, the head of the notorious S.S. and operators of the death camps, as well as the evil bureaucrat and technocrat, Adolf Eichmann. It is even reported that this so-called holy man visited Auschwitz incognito, and was positively thrilled with what he saw there. Indeed, he begged the Nazis, once they had completed the Final Solution in Europe, to deconstruct the death camps (they were made with modular construction), and assemble them in Palestine to deal with the Jews there. Perhaps most infamously, Husseini went on to organize the S.S. Division Handschar, comprised of Muslims from the Balkans, and responsible for the deaths of some 100,000 people.
During the war years, Husseini was visited personally by none other than Abd al-Rahman, the brother of Hassan al-Banna, the leader (and founder) of the Ikhwan (Mitchell, The Society of Muslim Brothers, pg. 56). Several sources list Amin al-Husseini as a prominent member of, even founder, of the Muslim Brotherhood in Palestine.
The Ikhwan and the Aryans
Aside from Amin al-Husseini, the Muslim Brotherhood had multiple contact points with the Nazi Party. Both the organizations had a common enemy in England: the Ikhwan were interested in ousting the “corrupt” western powers from Egypt, the Nazis in dismantling the overseas empire of Britannia, which they resented mightily. In the 1930s, Hassan al-Banna accepted funds from Nazi military intelligence to begin the Ikhwan’s Secret Apparatus. What was/is this Secret Apparatus? Kept separate from most of the general membership, the apparatus is a paramilitary organization whose purpose is to use violence to advance the cause of jihad. A parallel can be drawn here to the Nazi S.A., led by early Hitler comrade, Ernst Rohm. Among other things, the Secret Apparatus was responsible for assassinating an Egyptian judge in 1948, which led to its first disbanding of the Muslim Brotherhood by the Egyptian government. We can safely assume that they were behind the attacks on more than 80 churches last August.
In 1942, as the Nazi General Erwin Rommel approached Egypt, the Brotherhood was set to welcome him as a liberator. When this failed, many Brothers were thrown in jail on conspiracy charges.
Like the Nazis, the Brotherhood coalesced around a strong and charismatic leader, Hassan al-Banna. (Not only is Hitler’s Mein Kampf a perennial bestseller in the Arab speaking world, but the title translates into “My Jihad.”) Banna openly admired the German Fuhrer, and just as Hitler made it a requirement to pledge personal loyalty to, above all else, the person of Adolf Hitler, so Banna did the same with the Brothers. The oath, or Bay’a, pledged by every Muslim Brother states as follows: “We grant you [the Brotherhood’s General Guide) our allegiance on the Book of God and the Tradition of His Prophet.” Compare this to the oath taken by the Nazi S.S., which states, “I vow to you, Adolf Hitler, as Führer and chancellor of the German Reich loyalty and bravery. I vow to you and to the leaders that you set for me, absolute allegiance until death. So help me God !”
Regarding the S.S. pledge to die for Hitler, it is the highest aspiration of a Muslim Brother to die in the name of jihad. Jihad, or holy struggle, is not regarded by the Ikhwan as a spiritual concept, but a martial one: the Brothers’ study of jihad “dwelt on the martial glory of early Islamic conquests” (Mitchell, 208). One of Banna’s most well known essays, The Art of Death, glorifies dying in the name of jihad as more worthy than living for jihad. Moreover, common refrains of the Brotherhood include the explicit “Jihad is our way” and “Dying in the way of Allah is our highest hope.” Like the S.S., the Muslim Brotherhood is, in theory and practice, a death cult.
A further parallel between the Nazi Party and the Ikhwan is flagrant advocacy of racism. The German scientific, medical, and philosophical establishment was known for advancing the ideas of racial hygiene, which preached the supremacy of the Aryan race, and the inferiority of other races, especially Jews, Slavs, and Africans. Men like the National Alfred Rosenberg and Julius Streicher propagandized against the inferior races, creating a psychological environment conducive to mass murder on an industrial scale.
The ideology Muslim Brotherhood is also strongly influenced by racial theory, and the precedent for such judgment by Islamic scholars goes back centuries. Ibn Taymiyyah was a 7th century Islamic philosopher who lived at the time when the Mongols invaded Damascus. Shortly after the invasion, the Mongols converted to Islam, posing a hurdle to declare religious war, jihad, against them. To get around this inconvenient technicality, Taymiyyah wrote that it was the Arabs who were the true Muslims, because they governed by Sharia; and so what if the Mongols had converted – they were still infidels because they ruled by man-made laws (i.e. not sharia). It was thus the duty of the Arab Muslims to kill their Mongol invaders. The religious basis of war had turned racial.
The Brotherhood’s most prominent philosopher, Sayyid Qutb, was also a noted racist. Having lived in several American cities, including New York, Washington, D.C., and Greeley, Colorado, Qutb was disgusted by what he perceived as American sexual licentiousness and racism against black people. Qutb wrote, upon his return to Egypt after the War, “The white man in Europe or America is our number-one enemy… The white man crushes us underfoot while we teach our children about his civilization, his universal principles and noble objectives…. We are endowing our children with amazement and respect for the master who tramples our honor and enslaves us. Let us instead plant the seeds of hatred, disgust, and revenge in the souls of these children. Let us teach these children from the time their nails are soft that the white man is the enemy of humanity, and that they should destroy him at the first opportunity.” (Wright, The Looming Tower. Ch. 1).
Nazism as seen Today
In headlines today there is evidence that the modern jihadis idolize the Nazis. Indeed, the unique strand of 20th century hate is alive and well in modern Palestinian Islamist movement. This month, the student group at Vassar College, Students for Justice in Palestinian, published an anti-American Nazi propaganda poster on their website.
In October, residents of Beit Umar in the Palestinian Authority flew the Nazi flag high over a major roadway. Furthermore, a Palestinian Authority youth magazine attributed several quotes, admiringly, to Hitler. (The quotes were apparently altered and/or inaccurate.)It was at least the second time it had occurred in five months.
In December 2011, a PLO youth magazine featured a story by a young girl who dreamt that none less than Hitler inspired her views on Israel and the Jews. “I killed them so you would all know that they are a nation which spreads destruction all over the world.”
The Nazi Party was known for having a philosophical basis (to the extent the garbled Nazi ideology had any coherence) in post-Enlightenment German philosophy, especially that of Friedrich Nietzsche. Nietzsche today is remembered primarily for his emphasis on power. Some common phrases we can attribute to Nietzschean thought are “might makes right,” “the strong prevail,” and “will power.” Nazi leaders imbibed these ideas, and manifested them in actions. Thus they did not care about winning political battles through debate. Instead, the National Socialists preferred to win the battle in the street, using the S.A. and S.S. to intimidate, browbeat, and murder their political opponents.
Much like the Nazis who embraced violence as the solution to political disagreement, over the last two decades, and coinciding with and influencing the emergence of al Qaeda as a modern pan-Islamist movement, a radical group of Muslims has coalesced around the heretical views of the Takfiris. The distinguishing characteristic of the Takfiris is their claimed right to determine who and who are not believers (takfir means one who accuses another of apostasy). According to the Takfiri, the non-believer, or kafir, does not have a right to live. Despite the clear admonitions in the Koran that forbid murder, the adherents of the Takfiri movement embrace their self-given right to murder.
As such, the worldview of the takfir has traditionally been considered heretical in Islam. It only gained currency in modern times through the writings of the Muslim Brother Sayyid Qutb, who judged Gamal Nasser’s rule in Egypt to be insufficiently Islamic and therefore not worthy of the Egyptian people. (Nasser was the first President in Egypt following the end of British colonial rule. Despite being close to the Muslim Brothers, he abandoned much of their agenda once securing power, and disbanded them following an attempt on his life.) To justify revolution against the secular military government of Nasser, and the necessary violence to effect a change in power in order to bring about Koranic rule, Qutb embraced the Takfiri doctrine. By legitimizing takfiris, Qutb was, in his mind and the minds of fellow Muslim Brothers, able to manipulate Islam into a religion that made murder of the kafir, even the Muslim kafir, a compulsory individual obligation.
For-Profit Terrorism: Qatari Adoption of the Takfiris
It is not surprising that a movement with an ontological basis in a fanatical obsession with the purging of identified enemies (i.e., alleged apostates), is today less concerned with religious purity than violence and the profits derived thereof. Neither is it surprising that since violence became the means of expressing religious faith, the movement has moved considerably away from Islamic purity, and into the shady realm of organized crime.
Al Qaeda, from the time of its founding, adopted the mentality of the Takfiris. Like the victims of Amin al-Husseini, who claimed to be freeing Palestine of Jews but in fact killed significantly more Palestinian Muslims, the majority of al Qaeda’s victims are Muslim.* Just think of the living conditions for Muslims in Afghanistan under the Taliban, the hundreds of victims each month from car bombings in Iraq, or the more than 100,000 killed in the Algerian Civil War in the 1990s. If these images call to mind Mexico, a country under constant terror from powerful drug cartels, it is not a coincidence; for Al Qaeda today is more interested profit than the Prophet. (Indeed, in a foreshadowing, Husseini extorted his base of support, paid his foot soldiers barely enough to live, and himself lived in lavish luxury.) And to operate vast criminal organizations in primarily Muslim countries requires them to employ repressive policies like any other syndicate.
Qatar is the only country in the world today to openly welcome the Muslim Brotherhood. Exemplifying this relationship is Yusuf al-Qaradawi, the spiritual guide of the Ikhwan, whose show on Al Jazeera (based out of Doha, Qatar) reaches an estimated 60 million Muslims each month. Furthermore, a driving force behind al Qaeda’s formation was Ayman al-Zawahiri, an Egyptian surgeon and family friend of Brotherhood philosopher Sayyid Qutb. Today, Zawahiri – a Muslim Brother – is the head of al Qaeda.
The understanding of al Qaeda’s (and other Islamist movements’) involvement in organized crime, including narcotics and human trafficking, is still evolving. But there is more than enough evidence to firmly establish al Qaeda et al as one of the world’s largest for-profit criminal networks. In more instances than not, the fingerprints of Qatar can be found on these activities as well.
Taliban: 2013 was a record year for opium production in Afghanistan. The opium crop is one of the main sources of revenue for the Taliban. The Pakistani ISI’s National Logistics Cell is known to be the transporters of Taliban heroin (an opium derivative). Qatar is in a strategic partnership with the National Logistics Cell, and hosts the Taliban in a compound in Doha. (Note: The NLC is also contracted by NATO to provide logistics in Afghanistan.)
Slavery: Al Qaeda and affiliates profit handsomely from human trafficking (a euphemism for slavery, either labor or sexual). Many of these slaves come from India and the surrounding countries. Qatar, who is in the process of constructing stadiums for the 2022 FIFA World Cup (which it may lose after it was revealed that Doha had bribed FIFA £3 mil), has come under immense pressure for the slaves being used to construct the stadiums.
Doha Airport: The airport in Doha is used as a transit point for drugs incoming from Latin America. There is a thriving cocaine trade between Argentina and Qatar, where a kilo of the drug can sell for up to three times more than it does in the United States ($90,000).
Money laundering: Despite having a population of merely 2 million people (only a fraction which are citizens), Qatar ranks #15 on the top countries with the highest illicit financial outflows from 2001-2010.
Anarchy is a Criminal’s Best Friend
The Muslim Brotherhood was a contemporary of the Nazi Party, both formed in the 1920s. Cooperation between the two organizations was a continuation of the cooperation between the Ottoman Empire and the German Imperial government, and began before World War I. Both the Nazis and the Muslim Brothers opposed British rule in Egypt; both were led by strong, charismatic leaders who insisted on personal loyalty from members; both had a paramilitary wing; both hated Jews; both had a racial component to their ideology; both used violence to achieve political ends; and, both ultimately ruined the people they professed to fight for. For the Muslim Brotherhood, this continues to be true into the present day.
Yet there is another dimension, overlooked by too many modern analysts. The Muslim Brotherhood, which has elevated violence into a religion, has evolved into a transnational organized crime syndicate. Al Qaeda, a spinoff of the Muslim Brotherhood, operates across continents, facilitating slavery, kidnapping, heroin and cocaine smuggling, and money laundering. Qatar, who welcomed the Muslim Brotherhood, has a clear hand in al Qaeda’s business model and the revenues.
What has the Arab Spring done, but create vast zones of anarchy across North Africa and the Middle East? Policing in Libya is nearly non-existent, while the country is ruled by roving Islamist gangs. The prevalence of drugs has increased substantially. Even Tunisia, which has been the most stable of the Arab Spring countries, is struggling to control a burgeoning market for smuggled drugs and arms. The borders of Syria are as porous as ever, and the war has attracted a colorful cast of actors, including Hezbollah and al Qaeda, and even the U.S.-based narco-gang, MS13. Nigeria, thanks to Boko Haram, is increasingly chaotic, and government control has become tenuous. Iraq, under constant siege, is unraveling rapidly.
During the Lebanese Civil War (1975-1990), the power vacuum in the Mediterranean country sucked in every sort of narcotics and arms trafficker in the region. For 15 years, Lebanon was an anarchic free-for-all, hell for most, the bazaar of a lifetime for traffickers. The Arab Spring countries’ governments are now all but incapable of any kind of law enforcement or border control. While the local populations suffer as their civil societies are ripped apart at the seams, Islamist criminal organizations, who use terror as tactic to keep people scared for their lives, enrich themselves on the black market.
The Nazi “New Order” in Europe was an oxymoron. The order established by the Nazis was in name only. In fact, the Nazis began by exploiting their own citizens, with forced labor programs and strict wage controls. They then expanded this business model, invading and occupying neighboring countries, while turning their economies into slave labor populations, governed by Nazi Party bosses who were in favor with Adolf Hitler. The analogy between the Muslim Brotherhood and the Nazi Party goes so far that at the Nuremberg Trials, the International Military Tribunal declared the Nazi Party (and its apparatuses) a “criminal organization.”
* The term al Qaeda is used here to encompass a more general, but no less accurate, number of Takfiri groups. The Taliban in Afghanistan hosted Osama bin Laden, the nominal leader of al Qaeda proper. Today, al Qaeda groups, including the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, threaten to conquer Iraq in the name of jihad. And the Algerian Groupe Islamique Arme (GIA), went on to become al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM).