Nobody can know how the Jews who were murdered in the Holocaust would feel about the now so fashionable use of their despair and suffering for the benefit of today’s mostly Muslim refugees. I have repeatedly tried to explain why I think the comparison is inappropriate; but even though more influential writers have also adamantly opposed this facile “lesson of history,” it only seems to become more popular. One notable example for this trend is the Twitter account St. Louis Manifest: set up for the recent International Holocaust Remembrance Day, it quickly gained almost 74,000 followers by combining the commemoration of the Jewish refugees on board the St. Louis, who were denied entry to the US and later killed by the Nazis, with the message #RefugeesWelcome. In the same spirit, columnist Peter Beinart decreed on Twitter that it was completely unacceptable for Jewish organizations to commemorate the Holocaust without forcefully rejecting the Trump administration’s recent “Muslim ban” (which isn’t really a “Muslim ban”).
In a probably futile attempt to make the virtue-signalers think twice, Lee Smith argued in Tablet that if today’s Syrian refugees are the “new Jews,” we should urgently figure out who are the new Nazis. According to Smith, it is Iran and “its crack troops, the Quds Force,” as well as Iranian proxies like Hezbollah and Assad ally Russia “that hunted Sunni Arabs like animals and slaughtered them or sent them running for their lives. These are the Nazis. That’s who sent the Syrians running for their lives like Jews fleeing Hitler.”
Writing at The American Interest, Walter Russell Mead and Nicholas M. Gallagher make a similar argument:
“The refugee question is not the only uncomfortable parallel between the 1930s and our own time. The real problem in the 1930s wasn’t the lack of compassion for Jewish and other refugees; it was the feckless appeasement of Adolf Hitler and the unwillingness to confront him that empowered the Nazi persecution of the Jews and created hundreds of thousands of refugees. So today the true villain of the Syria story—aside from Syria, Russia, and Iran—is the feckless Obama foreign policy that allowed a cyst to metastasize into a cancer, just as Britain, France, and America once allowed Hitler to grow into the master of Europe.
The Obama officials and cheerleaders now guilt-tripping the country over ‘heartlessness’ toward Syria refugees are giving hypocrisy a bad name. Bad foreign policy is the cause of the heartbreak in Syria today, not bad immigration policy. The world does not need lectures from Susan Rice and Samantha Power on what we should do about Syrian refugees; the best way to deal with refugee flows is to prevent them from happening. The Holocaust was not caused by the Reed-Johnson Act [which sharply curtailed immigration since 1924]; it was caused by Nazi hatred, enabled by naive liberal illusions about the ‘arc of history’ that prevented the West from mobilizing against Hitler when he was weak and [could have been] easily defeated.”
But current controversies about Muslim immigration are of course not just about Syrian refugees, and arguably, everyone who is eager to cite “lessons” of the 1930s and 1940s should be confronted with the fact that the murderous Jew-hatred of this time remains not only fairly popular in the Muslim world, but is further fortified by ancient Islamic enmity to Jews. While there is plenty of evidence for these unfortunate facts, the perhaps best example is the popular Muslim leader Yusuf al-Qaradawi. It is crucial to understand how enormously influential Qaradawi is: A 2009 book entitled “The Global Mufti” asserts that “Qaradawi is unquestionably the most important Sunni religious figure in the world today,” and a Huffington Post/World Post list of Arab “thought leaders” ranks the now ninety-year old cleric as number three for 2016.
According to the Huffington Post, Qaradawi is best known for his program “Sharia and Life,” which is broadcast on Al Jazeera and has an estimated audience of 60 million worldwide; he has also published more than 120 books, and helped found the popular website IslamOnline, for which he has long served as “chief religious scholar.”
Interestingly, even the Huffington Post notes in its short biography on Qaradawi that due to some “controversial” views, he was refused entry to the UK (2008) and France (2012). One could add that also his US visa was revoked already in 1999, and he has even become controversial in the Arab world because many regard him “as the religious voice giving power to people in Arab countries to rise against their oppressive rulers.” Along with many Muslim Brotherhood members, an Egyptian court sentenced Qaradawi (in absentia) to death in 2015; Georgetown professor Abdullah Al-Arian denounced the sentence in his Al Jazeera column and praised Qaradawi as “possibly the most prominent religious authority in the Sunni Muslim world.”
Westerners who are eager to use the victims of the Holocaust for today’s political debates should be familiar with some of the relevant views of this highly influential Muslim scholar, who – as Al-Arian illustrates – has also well-placed admirers in the West.
In a speech broadcast on Al Jazeera TV on January 30, 2009, Qaradawi declared:
“Throughout history, Allah has imposed upon the [Jews] people who would punish them for their corruption. The last punishment was carried out by Hitler. By means of all the things he did to them – even though they exaggerated this issue – he managed to put them in their place. This was divine punishment for them. Allah willing, the next time will be at the hand of the believers.”
So apparently, Qaradawi would prefer to see Muslims not as the new Jews, but rather as the new Nazis.
A few weeks before Qaradawi expressed his hope that Muslims would follow in Hitler’s footsteps, he also prayed in a Friday sermon that was aired by Al Jazeera TV:
“Oh Allah, take the Jews, the treacherous aggressors. Oh Allah, take this profligate, cunning, arrogant band of people. Oh Allah, they have spread much tyranny and corruption in the land. Pour Your wrath upon them, oh our God. Lie in wait for them. […] oh Allah, take this oppressive, tyrannical band of people. Oh Allah, take this oppressive, Jewish, Zionist band of people. Oh Allah, do not spare a single one of them. Oh Allah, count their numbers, and kill them, down to the very last one.”
These kind of fervent prayers calling on Allah to kill all the Jews are not uncommon – here is a selection: a Palestinian preacher (2010); a Hamas imam (2011); a Spanish imam (2014); an Italian preacher (2014); an imam in Berlin (2014); a Qatari sheikh (2014); a Palestinian sheikh (2016).
As far as Qaradawi is concerned, he had freely promoted his intense Jew-hatred already for years. In 2003, he published a book (in Arabic) explaining his “rulings” on Palestine; the book was translated to English in 2007. In this book Qaradawi warns Muslims not to be friends with “Jews, in general, and Israelis, in particular;” he describes Jews as “devourers of Riba (usury) and ill-gotten money” and as “true examples of miserliness and stinginess;” he also claims that Jews “have killed Prophet Zakariyya and Prophet Yahya and wove conspiracies against Jesus Christ.”
However, as Mark Gardner and Dave Rich noted in their review (full pdf text), the “most striking part of the book” is Qaradawi’s discussion of a notorious hadith [i.e. records “of the traditions or sayings of the Prophet Muhammad” which are viewed “as a major source of religious law and moral guidance, second only to the authority of the Qurʾān”] that also appears prominently in the Hamas Charter and reads:
“The last day will not come unless you fight Jews. A Jew will hide himself behind stones and trees and stones and trees will say, O servant of Allah [or O Muslim] there is a Jew behind me, come and kill him.”
Qaradawi describes this hadith as “one of the miracles of our Prophet” and elaborates:
“[W]e believe that the battle between us and the Jews is coming. Such a battle is not driven by nationalistic causes or patriotic belonging; it is rather driven by religious incentives. This battle is not going to happen between Arabs and Zionists, or between Jews and Palestinians, or between Jews or anybody else. It is between Muslims and Jews as is clearly stated in the hadith. This battle will occur between the collective body of Muslims and the collective body of Jews i.e. all Muslims and all Jews. (p. 77).”
Gardner and Rich argue that Qaradawi “personifies the combination of theological anti-Judaism, modern European antisemitism and conflict-driven Judeophobia that make up contemporary Islamist attitudes to Jews.” But given the fact that Qaradawi has long been recognized as “possibly the most prominent religious authority in the Sunni Muslim world” – to quote Georgetown professor Abdullah Al-Arian – it is by no means clear that only “Islamists” would share his views on Jews. And indeed, there is plenty of evidence that antisemitism is not only rampant in the Arab and Muslim world, but also prevalent in Muslim communities in the West.
I would have thought that if we want to draw “lessons” from the Holocaust, one of the most important would be to never again ignore incitement to murderous Jew-hatred. But the recent International Holocaust Remembrance Day was just one of many occasions to realize that I’m apparently wrong.